The British contribution to the Western Front

The British contribution to the Western Front

At the outbreak of the First World War the British Expeditionary Force was deployed to Belgium and Northern France. This force numbered some 120,000 men. The first action seen by the BEF was at the Battle of Mons which saw heavy casualties inflicted upon the Germans. Following this the BEF fought at the Battle of the Marne and successfully prevented the Germans outflanking British and French Troops during the ‘race for the sea’. After the First Battle of Ypres the British army was stationed along just 20 miles of front line trenches, in and around the Ypres Salient. By the end of the war the British controlled over 140 miles of front line trenches.

By the end of the war over 7 million men and women had seen service in the British Army. Of these 1.6 million were recorded as being wounded, 662000 were killed and 140000 were listed as missing, presumed dead.

The figures above suggest a massive contribution to the war effort. Whilst these numbers are staggering and remarkably high it is worth remembering that the British were just one of the armies participating on the Western Front. The French army was larger and in control of a larger part of the front line for the entirety of the war. The Western Front Association has calculated the percentage of troops that were British on the Western Front and the average length of front line controlled by each army:

Year. Monthly mean British Frontage. British as % of total French British Frontage Maximum length of British Frontage
1914 21 miles 4.7% 25 miles
1915 43 miles 9.7% 70 miles
1916 80 miles 18.0% 90 miles
1917 87 miles 19.6% 110 miles
1918 87 miles 23.8% 123 miles

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First World War

Causes of the First World War – Timeline of Causes – Forgotten Causes – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand – The Schlieffen Plan – Historiography of the Causes of the First World War

Outbreak of War (Public reaction in Britain) – The British Expeditionary Force in 1914

Trench Warfare – Simulation: Would you make a good officer in the trenches? – British contribution to the Western Front

Battles of the First World War – First Battle of the Marne – The Gallipoli Campaign – Battle of Verdun – Battle of Jutland – Brusilov Offensive – Battle of the Somme – Battle of Passchendaele – The Spring Offensive – Battle of Amiens – Victory on the Western Front?

The Home Front – Revision exercise – Changing role of Women – Propaganda – Censorship – Conscientious Objectors – Rationing and Recruitment

Personalities – Douglas Haig and the Somme – Charles Gass – Billy Bishop – Ludendorff – The Bradford Pals – Black History and the First World War

Technology and New Weapons – British Tanks – Machine Guns

Medicine in the First World War

Other wars:

The Norman ConquestThe Wars of the RosesThe British and English Civil WarsThe Second World War – Vietnam WarCold War

Famous Battles:

Battle of Hastings – Battle of TowtonBattle of BosworthD Day

Related Content:

The British EmpireThe Treaty of VersaillesImpact of the War on Germany – Primary HistoryHistory Teachers Resources


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