TRIAL BY FIRE
COMMAND AND THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN 1914
By Nikolas Gardner
Praeger Publishers 2003 - ISBN 0 313 32473 5 - 259 pp - Maps - £44.00
This is an academic study of command in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in the 1914 campaign. While profusely written about, the battles of 1914 have been largely neglected by some historians. The author has written an interesting perspective looking at how the development of the army before the war led to some of the, often unfortunate, events of 1914. While he criticises several senior commanders, such as Haig (a Corps commander in 1914) and French (C in C BEF), from the outset he comments that he has the highest regard for the men of the Regular Army; in doing so one is reminded of the quote of Napoleon's that there 'is no such thing as a bad soldier, just bad officers'. His treatment of the Command aspects of the campaign fall completely in line with books like Tim Travers 'The Killing Ground' Prior and Wilson's 'Command on the Western Front'. Those who have read these works will recognise a similar treatment of this subject.
An interesting book, particularly some of the 'pen portraits' of senior officers, but one I suspect only the serious military historian or dedicated researcher of the 1914 campaign would be prepared to pay £44 for. I hope a cheaper paperback edition may be considered by the publishers at some point.