British Army During World War I

The British Army during World War I fought the largest and most costly war in its long history. Unlike the French and German Armies, its units were made up exclusively of volunteers—as opposed to conscripts—at the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, the British Army was considerably smaller than its French and German counterparts.

During the war, there were three distinct British Armies. The "first" army was the small volunteer force of 400,000 soldiers, over half of which were posted overseas to garrison the British Empire. This total included the Regular Army and reservists in the Territorial Force. Together, they formed the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), which was formed for service in France and became known as the Old Contemptibles. The 'second' army was Kitchener's Army, formed from the volunteers in 1914–1915 destined to go into action at the Battle of the Somme. The 'third' was formed after the introduction of conscription in January 1916, and by the end of 1918, the army had reached its maximum strength of 4,000,000 men and could field over 70 divisions. The vast majority of the army fought in the main theatre of war on the Western Front in France and Belgium against the German Empire. Some units were engaged in Italy and Salonika against Austria-Hungary and the Bulgarian Army, while other units fought in the Middle East, Africa and Mesopotamia—mainly against the Ottoman Empire—and one battalion fought alongside the Japanese Army in China during the Siege of Tsingtao.

The war also posed problems for the army commanders, given that prior to 1914, the largest formation any serving General in the BEF had commanded on operations was a division. The expansion of the army saw some officers promoted from brigade to corps commander in less than a year. Army commanders also had to cope with the new tactics and weapons that were developed. With the move from manoeuvre to trench warfare, both the infantry and the artillery had to learn how to work together. During an offensive, and when in defence, they learned how to combine forces to defend the front line. Later in the war, when the Machine Gun Corps and the Tank Corps were added to the order of battle, they were also included in the new tactical doctrine.

The men at the front had to struggle with supply problems; the shortage of food and disease was rife in the damp, rat-infested conditions. Along with enemy action, many troops had to contend with new diseases: trench foot, trench fever and trench nephritis. When the war ended in 1918, British Army casualties, as the result of enemy action and disease, were recorded as 673,375 dead and missing, with another 1,643,469 wounded. The rush to demobilise at the end of the war substantially decreased the strength of the army, from its peak of 4,000,000 men in 1918 to 370,000 men by 1920.

Read more about British Army During World War I:  Organisation, British Expeditionary Force, Recruitment and Conscription, Commanders, Doctrine, Life in The Trenches, Western Front, Aftermath

Other articles related to "british army during world war i, british army, war, army":

British Army During World War I - Aftermath
... Further information History of the British Army, Inter-War period (1919–1939) The British Army during World War I was the largest military force that ... On the Western Front, the BEF ended the war as the strongest fighting force, more experienced and larger than the American Army, its morale was in better shape than the French Army ... The official "final and corrected" casualty figures for the British Army—including the Territorial Force—were issued on 10 March 1921 ...

Famous quotes containing the words war, world, army and/or british:

    All war represents a failure of diplomacy.
    Tony Benn (b. 1925)

    The world was a huge ball then, the universe a might harmony of ellipses, everything moved mysteriously, incalculable distances through the ether.
    We used to feel the awe of the distant stars upon us. All that led to was the eighty-eight naval guns, ersatz, and the night air-raids over cities. A magnificent spectacle.
    After the collapse of the socialist dream, I came to America.
    John Dos Passos (1896–1970)

    It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.
    Sun Tzu (6–5th century B.C.)

    The inhabitants of St. John’s and vicinity are described by an English traveler as “singularly unprepossessing,” and before completing his period he adds, “besides, they are generally very much disaffected to the British crown.” I suspect that that “besides” should have been a “because.”
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)