British Expeditionary Force

British Expeditionary Force (BEF) (British Expeditionary Force) was the name of the military contingent of the British Army, which was used both in the First World War between 1914 and 1918 and in the Second world war 1939/40 in France and Belgium.


The establishment of a rapid reaction force of the British Army under the name British Expeditionary Force goes to Richard Haldane in his work as minister of war back. During his tenure, two possible scenarios for war, a war the Entente against Germany were discussed in the UK. Contrary to the Navalisten who thought that Britain should lead a pure naval war with Germany and leave the country fight the French, Haldane had put together an expeditionary force, which should be routed to the outbreak of war on the continent. From 1911, a deployment of British troops on the continent in support of France had been agreed in case of war.

World War I

On 4 August 1914 German troops marched into neutral Belgium. Great Britain commanded the same day the mobilization of his army. Herbert Kitchener was appointed Secretary of War. Kitchener predicted as one of the first several years of a war and was still on 5 August the command to increase the army. By Army Command 324 of 21 August 1914 were initially established from volunteers recruited six new divisions. Total could be built so as Kitchener’s Army or New Army for use on the Western Front until 1915, more than 40 divisions.

After the first units of the BEF on 11 August had landed in Le Havre, it passed the British Expeditionary Force in France until the fall of 1914 of four infantry divisions and one cavalry division. It was led by John French. The infantry divisions were divided into two army corps under Douglas Haig and Grierson. The Cavalry Division was led by Edmund Allenby. Grierson took over after the death of General Smith-Dorrien, the II Corps. The use of the British Expeditionary Force chose the Battle of the Marne in September of 1914. Towards the end of the year, after the First Battle of Ypres, the two corps were supplemented by Kitchener associations and expanded to armies.

Because of its feeble and irresolute French leadership was blamed for the British failure and the high losses and in December 1915, his deputy and commander of the 1st Army Haig replaced.

Other armies were set as follows:

•the 3rd Army in October 1915

•the 4th Army in February 1916

•the reserve army, and later 5 Army, in May 1916



More British Expeditionary Force during the First World War, in the Mediterranean (Battle of Gallipoli), Mesopotamia, Egypt / Palestine, used at the Salonika front in the Balkans and in Italy. These were partially supported by the British Expeditionary Force’s Dominion Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

World War II

After the annexation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in March 1939, France and Great Britain ended the policy of appeasement and declared after the German invasion of Poland on 1 Germany on 3 September 1939 September the war. Commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France was General Lord Gort. Due to the defensive strategy of the Western Allies came in the first months of the war to no offensive against Germany, such was planned for the year 1941. Therefore, no major battles took place from late summer 1939 to spring 1940 at the French-German border instead, so this phase was designated as the seat of war in Germany, in the UK and in France as the Phoney War Drole de Guerre.

On 10 May 1940 the German Wehrmacht began the campaign in the West. The BEF occupied positions planned in Belgium after the German breakthrough near Sedan, however, it had to withdraw from Belgium. The German advance was unexpectedly rapid progress, so that the British War Cabinet on 19 May was considering an evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

In Operation Dynamo, the removal of the British troops was. As part of the operation was 26 May to 4 June 1940 virtually the entire British Expeditionary Force in France and parts of the French army, who were surrounded by German troops at Dunkirk and evacuated by sea to Britain. Up to 4 June, a total of 338,226 Allied soldiers, including about 110,000 Frenchmen are set.


•Arthur Hodges: Kitchener Vanguard Publishing Schlegel, Berlin, 1937.

•Hugh Sebag-Montefiore: Dunkirk.Fight to the last man. Penguin, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-14-102437-0.

•Nick Smart: Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, 2005, ISBN 1-84415-049-6.

Military Association (British history)

Military unit in World War I

Military unit in World War II

British Army

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *