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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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?