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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forceful new look at 1914.
This is a brilliant history of the British Army during the epic campaigns in France and Belgium during 1914. This book goes beyond the usual story of the well-trained BEF repeatedly getting the better of the Germans, and shows instead the weaknesses of the army during the early stages, at Mons and especially at Le Cateau. It also shows how the BEF got its act together and...
Published 11 months ago by Alun Martin

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I read this book with the expectation of a thorough account and was disappointed. The subsequent actions are accurately covered
A refreshing and thoughtful reappraisal of the role of the BEF in the early campaigns of 1914. A number of myths are debunked and the vulnerability of the British in the opening stages of the conflict are thoroughly explored. However the account of Mons is disappointing with no mention of the defence of Nimy bridge by Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Private Sidney Godley. I...
Published 3 months ago by MR STEPHEN D OWEN


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forceful new look at 1914., 7 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
This is a brilliant history of the British Army during the epic campaigns in France and Belgium during 1914. This book goes beyond the usual story of the well-trained BEF repeatedly getting the better of the Germans, and shows instead the weaknesses of the army during the early stages, at Mons and especially at Le Cateau. It also shows how the BEF got its act together and played a key part in the defence of Ypres at the end of 1914. As well as analysing how the army fought, the author makes excellent use of the memoirs, diaries, letters of those involved. For the first time, we now have a proper, balanced history of the British part of one of the most important and interesting campaigns of World War I.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read., 6 April 2014
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This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
Good read. Does not appear to have the bias of some other books I have read. Informative. Only way to improve it would be to include more maps.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No punches pulled, 22 April 2014
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This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
This is an excellent and detailed account of the opening stages of the war without any account of the events leading up to the conflict. The author takes a realistic look at the engagements at Mons and Le Cateau, so often regarded as successful delaying actions, and the subsequent actions of the BEF. A most readable book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up-to-date account of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914, 2 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
This is a timely and up-to-date account of the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1914 from the battle of Mons to the end of the first battle of Ypres. It was published in 2013. The general outline of the course of events is well known, from the retreat of the French army from Charleroi and the British army from Mons, to Joffre's riposte at the Marne, the German defence of the Aisne, the German determination to crush the tiny British army at Ypres by sheer weight of numbers leading to the impasse in the trenches.

After the First World War self-congratulatory accounts were given; evidence was not riorously tested. This the author proposed to remedy and provide a more realistic assessment of the British Army. The first British encounter of the war was of a squadron of cavalry on reconnaissance met a similar German squadron on similat duty. The british had swords and the Germans lances which were unhandy in a melee. It was like that in August 1914.

Step by step he traces the course of the British Expeditionary force, giving credit where it is due, and not covering up mistakes or weaknesses. Just a tiny niggle. He mentions the Kindermord where the Germans were so anxious to overwhelm the British ar Langemarck near Ypres pushed up half-trained units up against the British. The resulting slaughter was called by the Germans Kindermord which refers to the massacres of the Holy Innocents by Herod at Bethlehem. It was the Germans who made the comparison, and German-speakers would all recognise the comparison. But British writers think the word was first applied to Langemarck. As I say, just a niggle.

He considers Haig a much better corps commanders than Smith-Dorrien though he defends the latter from attacks by Marshal French who was using him as a scapegoat. The book is confined to the British Army though in fact the brunt of the fighting was sustained by the French.

Altogether this book is to be recommended to those who want an up-to-date account of events in August and September 100 years ago
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN TRIBUTE TO THE "OLD CONTEMPTIBLES", 18 Aug. 2014
By 
KOMET (WASHINGTON, DC - U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
"Challenge of Battle" is, perhaps, the finest book yet written on what was the British Army of 1914. Of all the major European powers, Britain possessed the smallest peacetime army. Yet, despite its size, it was a force that had been seasoned over the past century in various colonial wars fought in Africa and Asia.

The common impression formed of the British Army upon taking the field in France in August 1914 and marching north into Belgium (where it first clashed with the German Army at Mons), was that despite its small numbers, it managed, owing to superior firepower and riflemanship, to always stay one step ahead of the Germans, helping their French allies to buy time, and thus keep Paris free and France afloat, at the First Battle of the Marne. Gilbert sets out to show the reader that the British Army was not without its faults, both in terms of tactics and its leadership. Indeed, "[t]he overall performance of the BEF [British Expeditionary Force] during the 1914 campaign was uneven. The peacetime failings in command and control had been ruthlessly exposed on many occasions, and the vital necessity for the separate arms to work closely together was a lesson that was painfully and sometimes inadequately learned. The morale of the other ranks had proved too dependent on the inspirational qualities of their officers; when officers became casualties, or otherwise failed as leaders, the men fell back from exposed front-line positions with alarming frequency. Good leadership at all levels was a precursor to battlefield success."

The story of the British Army's actions at Mons, Le Cateau, along the Aisne River, and in Flanders during October and November 1914 is well-detailed and a fascinating one. It is a story in which Gilbert shows to fine effect his extensive knowledge of the subject. Plus, this is a book that even the layperson can easily digest without getting lost (or hopelessly bogged down) in the minutae of military jargon that often clouds books on military history. I'm so glad I read this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic and Informative., 6 Jan. 2015
By 
A. S. Edwards (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military) (Hardcover)
I am no history buff but found this a highly readable and quite exciting account of the opening months of the conflict. A number of different sources are drawn together to illustrate and bring this period of manouevre to life before the war settled down to it's signatory stale-mate. I am currently reading a similar book by Neillands and in comparison find The Challenge of Battle a little more dramatic and controversial in terms of decision making and actions taken. That said - if you were looking for a fast moving and memorable read I would thoroughly recommend this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well balanced, 16 July 2014
This new book looks beyond the Official History (and the many other histories that have followed over the years) to describe both the highs and lows of the British Army in 1914. As well as being a measured reassessment of the BEF, Challenge of Battle includes many brilliant first-hand accounts that are by turn amusing, informative and deeply moving. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable insight into the first months of the Great War, 10 Aug. 2014
By 
Peter Tabb (Channel Islands UK) - See all my reviews
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A welcome detailed analysis of just why the war wasn't going to be over by Christmas and a telling insight into why the force dismissed as the Kaiser's 'Contemptible Little Army' wasn't contemptible at all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good history with lots of interesting facts, 23 Aug. 2014
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A very good history with lots of interesting facts. The text can be a bit dry in places but that is probably because I have a read a lot of accounts and Im familiar with a lot of the bigger picture issues.What the book does show is that the British Army were a core of professionals, underfunded, politically neglected, lead by an officer corps that was professional in some cases and in most senior roles the aristocratic spares this lead to the inevitable consequences. What the book shows that I found most interesting is how these senior officers were all full of jealousy, petty feuds and political maneuvering at the cost of mens blood on the field!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The early months of the Great War have been the subject of many fine accounts ..., 30 Jan. 2015
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The early months of the Great War have been the subject of many fine accounts and analyses of which this volume is certainly one an is to be commended.
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