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January 1915

Submitted by Douglas Haig

 

January 1915

By January 1915, the BEF (British Expeditionary Force, destined for the western front) was expanding rapidly. The original two corps had swollen to a total of six corps, which were formed into the 1st and 2nd Armies.

Yet the vast expansion brought other problems in its train. Who would lead the new armies, corps and divisions? There was a serious lack of officers with sufficient experience to take on high command. Of even more concern was the puzzle as to how the great masses of partially trained recruits could be transformed into warriors capable of facing the most dangerous opponent in the world – the German army.

There were already disquieting rumours that the politicians were considering employing troops on ‘Easterner’ campaigns against the Turks. General Sir Douglas Haig had good reason to be concerned.

 

"Lord Kitchener has recently published in the press that six armies will be formed each of about three corps! We all think these new formations with (rather elderly) doubtful commanders and untrained staff a great mistake. It was folly to send out ‘the New Army’ by divisions and armies. Much better to send out battalions, or even brigades, for incorporation in our existing divisions and corps. We all quite concurred, and thought that the new corps and new armies (which are insufficiently trained) might readily become a danger!

[Commander-in-chief of the BEF Sir John] French also read a letter from Kitchener in which the latter hinted that his New Army might be used better elsewhere than on the eastern frontier of France. A suggestion was made of co-operating with Italy and Greece. I said that we ought not to divide our military force, but concentrate on the decisive front which was on this frontier. With more guns and ammunition, and more troops, we are bound to break through."

Many of the key themes of the First World War were already being explored. It would be a gargantuan conflict, involving millions of men at the front, and the mobilisation of whole populations behind the wheel of conflict. This would be a long struggle, with constantly evolving defence tactics to thwart every new attacking initiative.

 

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January 1915
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