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Book Title: 1914: The First Months of the Fighting|
The author of the book: Lyn Macdonald
Edition: Atheneum Books
Date of issue: November 30th 1988
ISBN 13: 9780689120145
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.36 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.3
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If you are interested in the history of the BEF during the first three months of the Great War than 1914 is a good book for you. Macdonald does a nice job of summarizing the events that led up to WWI and the actual deployment to France and Belgium but for me, the real fun starts with the first major action for the BEF at the battle of Mons. The book follows the BEF from the defeat at Mons in August, to the furious rear guard action at Le Cateau, to the victory at the Marne, the Aisne and finally, First Ypres in late November. This is my second Lyn Macdonald book and she uses the same recipe that she used in They Called it Passchendaele. She does a great job of framing and piecing together eye-witness accounts so that the story flows and events can be followed and understood through the words of the participants.
Make no mistake that the main focus of this book is the BEF. The French are only covered as their movements impact the BEF and are really “big picture.” This book is for the anglophile or those that are interested in the history of the first three months of the war from the BEF’s perspective. If you are looking for a comprehensive understanding of events on the Western Front in the year 1914 than there has got to be a better book out there that could provide the French and German perspective. Also, the personal accounts include many British period colloquialisms that were a little difficult to decipher at times.
There were a few lulls in this book but I really liked the coverage of the combat. The battle of Mons on August 23rd was the first time the BEF engaged an enemy on the continent since Waterloo. The first casualty inflicted by the BEF on the Germans was delivered by the slash of a sword by a dragoon on horseback who refused to sheathe his sword because he wanted his mates to see the blade adorned with the blood of the enemy. This would be about the last time cavalry would fight on horseback. In fact there is an eye-witness account of a charge by German cavalry against infantry. The German cavalry didn't get within 300 yards and all on horseback were slaughtered. My favorite account was the elite BEF artillery battery that fought a decisive rearguard action at Le Cateau. An order was misunderstood and the men thought they were to fight to the last. The men interviewed said it was much like the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Was there a man dismayed as the battery was destroyed? There were several stories that demonstrate the fog of war in 1914. Communications were mostly by semaphore and there were plenty of units not getting the word to withdraw and were decimated. One of my favorite stories was of the Northumberland Hussars paused to allow a French cavalry unit of Cuirassiers to pass by. The Cuirassiers wore a funny looking helmet that was sure to become ceremonial by 1915. As the soldiers exchanged military courtesies, a British private soldier exclaimed out loud “Wey, I thought them buggers war garman hoolans! I wor firin ' at the likes o' them all day yesterday!”
I was a little disappointed that the book ends with the completion of First Ypres in late November. I wanted to hear about the Christmas truce of December 1914. Anyway, by November the BEF had suffered 90% casualties. It only took about 3-months for the BEF to be virtually destroyed in the first war to end all wars. The Allies would win but someone else would have to do the fighting. The professional army was history by November.
I am an American but I found the story of the BEF to be very interesting. I plan to finish the series.
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Read information about the authorOver the past twenty years Lyn Macdonald has established a popular reputation as an author and historian of the First World War. Her books are They Called It Passchendaele, an account of the Passchendaele campaign in 1917; The Roses of No Man's Land,, a chronicle of the war from the neglected viewpoint of the casualties and the medical teams who struggled to save them; ,Somme, a history of the legendary and horrifying battle that has haunted the minds of succeeding generations; 1914, a vivid account of the first months of the war and winner of the 1987 Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award; 1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War, an illuminating account of the many different aspects of the war; and 1915: The Death of Innocence, a brilliant evocation of the year that saw the terrible losses of Aubers Ridge, Loos, Neuve Chapelle, Ypres and Gallipoli.
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