Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914.pdf

Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914.pdf


Praise for Adrian Gilbert’s other books:
POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939–1945
‘Gilbert is to be congratulated; with verve and scholarship he has illuminated a murky area of the war … [an] excellent history.’ – Ian Thomson, Daily Telegraph
 ‘Captured: the real spirit of the POW camps… a big subject here given a comprehensive and worthwhile examination.’ – Peter Lewis, Daily Mail
 ‘[a] fascinating study of the prisoner of war experience.’ – Professor Gary Sheffield, Military Illustrated
The Imperial War Museum Book of the Desert War
‘A vivid, vital history.’ – Sunday Times
 ‘Lucid narrative of operations … superb illustrations.’ – Philip Warner, Daily Telegraph
 ‘A familiar story, re-told from a series of new angles … much fresh, illuminating detail.’ – Professor M.R.D. Foot, Good Book Guide
Sniper One-on-One – The World of Combat Sniping
‘A comprehensive account of the occupation as it is carried out today, complete with a guide to the best weapons for the task.’ – Robert Fox, Daily Telegraph

 ‘Speaking as a professional sniper with service in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, I do have to say this book is one of the best. 5/5’ – Review

Adrian Gilbert is a military historian with a special interest in 20th-century warfare. Among his books are POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe 1939–45; The Foreign Legion in it Own Words; the best-selling Sniper: One-on One and The Imperial War Museum Book of the Desert War, the latter volume part of a series that won the Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature. His website can be found at:

Prologue: First Blood PART ONE: ADVANCE TO BATTLE 1 Opening the War Book 2 Across the Channel 3 The March to Mons 4 The Kaiser's Army 5 Encounter at Mons PART TWO: THE GREAT RETREAT 6 Disengagement 7 Le Cateau: the Decision to Fight 8 Le Cateau: the Withdrawal 9 Failures of Command 10 The Retreat Continues PART THREE: FROM THE MARNE TO THE AISNE 11 The Turn of the Tide 12 Battle of the Aisne: the Assault 13 Battle of the Aisne: Attrition PART FOUR: DECISION AT YPRES 14 Intervention in Belgium 15 The Opening Moves 16 Storm over Ypres 17 The Battle in the South 18 The Great Test 19 The Final Throw Epilogue Appendices: Orders of Battle, August 1914 and October 1914 Source Notes Bibliography Index


Winston Churchill described the opening campaign of World War I as ‘a drama never surpassed’. The titanic clash of Europe’s armies in 1914 is one the great stories of 20th-century history, and one in which the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) would play a notable part.


Previous assessments of the BEF have held to an unshakeable belief in its exceptional performance during the battles of 1914. But closer examination of the historical record reveals a force possessing some key strengths yet undermined by other, significant failings.


Within an authoritative and well-paced campaign narrative, Challenge of Battle re-evaluates the Army’s leadership, organization and tactics. It describes the problems faced by commanders, grappling with the brutal realities of 20th-century warfare, and explains how the British infantry’s famed marksmanship has to be set against the inexperience and tactical shortcomings of the BEF as a whole. But it also demonstrates the progress made by the British during 1914, concluding with the successful defense of Ypres against superior enemy forces.


The author examines the fateful decisions made by senior officers and how they affected the men under their command. Making full use of diaries, letters and other contemporary accounts, he builds a compelling picture of what it was like to fight in the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne and Ypres.


In this thought-provoking new book, Adrian Gilbert clears away the layers of sentiment that have obscured a true historical understanding of the 1914 campaign to provide a full, unvarnished picture of the BEF at war.



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