Challenge of Battle: The British Army's Baptism of Fire in the First World War

Author(s): Adrian Gilbert


In this timely 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 British Expeditionary Force at war. 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. Making full use of diaries, letters and other contemporary accounts, Adrian Gilbert builds a compelling picture of what it was like to fight in the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne and Ypres.


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Weaving together poignant first-hand accounts from soldiers on the frontline together with a detailed analysis of the strategies employed by the High Command, Adrian Gilbert presents a fresh new look at the first months of the war for the BEF.

Adrian Gilbert's recent books include Voices of the French Foreign Legion (2009) and POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945 (2006) - named by The Sunday Times as a top ten military book of the year. Four other titles have been `main selections' for the Military and Aviation Book Society, and his book on sniping has sold over 100,000 mass-market paperback copies in the US. He has contributed to TV documentaries and written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, Guardian, Good Book Guide and Gramophone.

List of Maps list of Images Introduction 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 Defeat 9 Failures of Command 10 The Retreat Continues PART THREE: FROM THE MARNE TO THE AISNE 11 Turn of the Tide 12 Battle on the Aisne: Assault 13 Battle on the Aisne: Entrenchment PART FOUR: DECISION AT YPRES 14 The Opening Moves 15 Storm over Ypres 16 Battle in the South 17 Ypres: the Test Epilogue: Death of the Old Army Appendix A: BEF Order of Battle 1914 Appendix B: British Army Organization Acknowledgements Source Notes Bibliography Index

General Fields

  • : 9781472810595
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Osprey Publishing
  • : May 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Adrian Gilbert
  • : Paperback
  • : 356