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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent contribution to anyones Great War Library
This book is a must for anyone interested in studying the First World War. The introductory chapter outlining the developments leading up to the war amongst the main protagonists is one of the finest I have ever come across. Robin Neillands explains the events leading up to the conflict and the actions of nations and individuals concerned with a clarity that is both...
Published on 28 May 2009 by Mr. Stephen Brunt

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3.0 out of 5 stars Too dry for me much of the time - but well researched and detailed
This is a well researched and detailed account of the first terrible four months of the BEF's wartime experiences on the Western Front up until the end of 1914, by the end of which they had suffered nearly 60,000 killed, wounded or missing (though the French and Germans had each suffered some half a million). However, I can't say I enjoyed the account - for me, it was...
Published 1 month ago by John Hopper


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent contribution to anyones Great War Library, 28 May 2009
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This review is from: Old Contemptibles: The British Expeditionary Force, 1914 (Hardcover)
This book is a must for anyone interested in studying the First World War. The introductory chapter outlining the developments leading up to the war amongst the main protagonists is one of the finest I have ever come across. Robin Neillands explains the events leading up to the conflict and the actions of nations and individuals concerned with a clarity that is both educating and easy to understand. He goes on to describe in great detail the magnificent contribution the Old Contemptibles made during the early days of the conflict, and how important this truly disciplined band of regular soldiers were.I would certainly recommend this book to anyone wanting a greater understanding of how the war to end all wars unfolded.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Old Contemptibles, 5 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Old Contemptibles (Paperback)
A very informative guide to the early days of the British Expeditionary Forces battles, a subject often glossed over in books on the Great War as they concentrate on later battles. At last, I have a picture of what life was like for my grandfather who was a regular soldier for ten years before WW1 was declared and became a member of the BEF.
Very well written and not at all stuffy! Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, lucid, 11 Oct 2013
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Rugby3 (California) - See all my reviews
This book's strength is its absorbing analysis of the conditions before WW1 that led to the British Army sending its professional but small (180,000) fighting force against four million German troops. Amazingly, they held the line, at huge cost. The book tells how the army gallantly sacrificed itself at Mons and the Marne, on the Aisne and at Le Cateau, and Neillands lucidly lays out the story behind those battles. No student of WW1 should miss this insightful untangling of a difficult subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched and very readable, 12 Dec 2013
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Ian Barker (Bolton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a well-researched and very readable account of the British Expeditionary Force of 1914.

Neillands starts with the pre-war plans of the major nations, all of which hinged on 19th century tactics and very little of which survived contact with the enemy. The British plan to mobilise and ship an army to France worked perfectly. However, the planners had failed to recognise that it was the wrong army - equipped to fight the Boers and lacking the heavy weaponry needed for war against an industrialised opponent.

The book then moves on to the fighting itself, the retreat from Mons, the "stopping blow" at Le Cateau, the counter attack on the Marne and finally the grinding attrition of first Ypres. At times you really need a map to follow the action but the author is nothing if not thorough.

Although it took heavy casualties at Ypres the fact that the BEF line didn't break in the face of much larger forces is down to the training and professionalism of the ordinary soldiers. Their rate of rifle fire was so rapid that at times the Germans believed they were using machine guns. In acknowledging this Neillands makes a valid point that although the final months of 1914 set the pattern for the next four years of conflict they also sowed the seed of Germany's defeat.

I'll make my usual gripe about uncorrected OCR errors in the Kindle edition - especially annoying here as they often involve numbers making them impossible to interpret - but overall this is an excellent account and well worth reading for anyone interested in Britain's role in the Great War.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too dry for me much of the time - but well researched and detailed, 14 Nov 2014
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John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a well researched and detailed account of the first terrible four months of the BEF's wartime experiences on the Western Front up until the end of 1914, by the end of which they had suffered nearly 60,000 killed, wounded or missing (though the French and Germans had each suffered some half a million). However, I can't say I enjoyed the account - for me, it was rather dry, with an excess of detail about manoeuvres and which units were fighting where under whose command on which different parts of the front. When I read military history, actual descriptions of the fighting I usually find less interesting than discussion of the strategy and politics, which I didn't think there was enough of here. There are some moving passages, though, good historical background from 1870 in the opening chapter and a short but appropriately reflective epilogue. The unfitness of Sir John French to be BEF commander comes across very clearly.

The main faults for me in the Kindle edition were the complete absence of any maps, which made following the action difficult, or photos or tables/diagrams. There were also a lot of typos.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Retreat from Mons, 30 Jan 2014
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My father was a regular soldier and he was an Old Contemptible and unfortunately he didn't tell me much about it. The only thing I do remember was during the retreat he would, with others, march quickly up the road and have a doze and be awakened by his comrades as they caught up with him. Apart from the Battle of Mons I was able to piece together some of the other battles he was engaged in. I found the differences of opinion between the Generals a bit upsetting to think of all the men that died, my father although wounded a couple of times he lived to a good age. He was a member of the Old Contemptibles Assoc until he died. I found the book very informative, a little bit hard going but well worth it. I would have liked to have known more about the regiments that took part in that conflict.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book describes in great, readable detail what led to the beginning of ..., 8 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Old Contemptibles: The British Expeditionary Force, 1914 (Hardcover)
A Superb book about many brave guys, who knew not, what was about to happen to them in August 1914, at Mons , Le Cateau, Marne and Ypres. Those that survived into Spring 1915 were not to last long.
We owe them so much.
This book describes in great, readable detail what led to the beginning of The Great War, and how events ensued from 4th August 1914, and what happened thereafter, albeit up to end of December 1914.
Further books detail the hell in 1915 onwards..
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor, old-fashioned military history, 2 Feb 2014
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Disappointing, old-style military history focussing only on units and commanders, not the men and their experiences. Readable until it reaches Ypres, when the account deteriorates into long lists of units, villages and casualties. Total lack of maps means that unless your knowledge of the geography is excellent or you provide your own map, the descriptions are often meaningless. Highly opinionated in its treatment of the commanders. Anglo-centric and even slightly jingoistic. Repetitious in parts. The Kindle edition appears to have been OCR'd and is full of errors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 July 2014
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Excellent
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5.0 out of 5 stars Old Contemptibles, 13 July 2014
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Tinatwosocks (Wigan (UK spiritual home of Rugby League) - See all my reviews
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This was a fascinating book. I knew nothing about the BEF or the role it played in stemming the initial German onslaught on Belgium and France, thus giving the Entente powers to the necessary time to gather themselves into some sort of fighting order. There are some light-hearted moments amongst the fearful description of the conflict that was going on, ie, Kaiser Bills remarks about the contemptible little army. This book was a great read from start to finish, particularly for anybody unfamiliar with the BEF's initial role at the beginning of the conflict.
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Old Contemptibles: The British Expeditionary Force, 1914
Old Contemptibles: The British Expeditionary Force, 1914 by Robin Neillands (Hardcover - 2 Aug 2004)
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