British Expeditionary Force

From Academic Kids

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the British army sent to France and Belgium in World War I and British Forces in Europe from 1939 - 1940 during World War II. The BEF was established by Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane following the Boer War in case Britain ever needed to deploy quickly a force to take part in an overseas war.


World War I

Before the war and at the immediate beginning of the war there was some debate in British military circles as to the best strategy in a war with Germany. Although plans had been drawn up as early as 1905 for transporting divisions rapidly to Europe, the so-called navalists favoured a strictly naval confrontation with Germany, leaving land fighting to the French. However, in the end it was decided to send a BEF to France and Belgium.

On the outbreak of World War I, the BEF was sent to Belgium under the command of General Sir John French. The BEF was composed of four regular infantry divisions, rising later to seven infantry and three cavalry divisions. It suffered heavy casualties in its first battle at Mons, but helped to halt the German advance at the First Battle of the Marne.

In December 1914, the British Expeditionary Force was divided into the First and Second Armies, with a third and fourth created later in the war. Although the term British Expeditionary Force strictly refers only to the forces sent initially to France in 1914, the name is often used of the British Army in France and Flanders throughout the First World War.

World War II

Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the British Expeditionary Force was sent to the Franco-Belgian border. By May 1940, when German attacks began, it consisted of ten infantry divisions in three corps, a tank brigade and an RAF detachment of about 500 aircraft. Commanded by General Lord Gort, although constituting only a tenth of the defending Allied force it sustained heavy losses during the German advance and the remainder were evacuated from Dunkirk in June, leaving much of their equipment behind.

Order of Battle (WWII)

I Corps - (Lieutenant General M.G.H. Barker)

II Corps - (Lieutenant-General A. F. Brooke)

III Corps - (Lieutenant-General Sir R. F. Adam)

G.H.Q. Reserve

See also


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