War and the transformation of British society c1903–28
Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform
Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front
The BEF and 1914. Overview
The end of the war. Overview
Key Topic 3: The home front and social change
DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview
Recruitment and rationing. Overview
The part played by women. Overview
Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28
The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview
The General Strike of 1926. Overview
The part Britain played in wartime events of 1914
At the beginning of the First World War the British Army was a small, professional force. It had 247,432 regular troops organised in four Guards and 68 line infantry regiments, 31 cavalry regiments, artillery and other support units. Almost half of the troops were stationed at garrisons around the world, rather than in the United Kingdom. In addition there was an Army Reserve of 145,00 former soldiers and a Special Reserve of 64000 men (similar to todays territorial army). A list called the National reserve was kept of all other men who had any previous military experience. There were 215,000 men on this list.
In August 1914 the British Expeditionary Force was mobilised. Six Infantry and One Cavalry Division were sent to France as the BEF. They totalled around 150,000 men. Each infantry division held 24 machine guns. Artillery was organised into separate brigades. In 1914 the BEF had 54 18 punder guns and 18 howlitzers. The Cavalry division was divided into 15 regiments in 5 brigades. The men were armed with rifles and supported by 24 13 pounder guns. This mobilised force sounds impressive but in reality it is very small compared with the French Army in 1914 who mobilized 1,650,000 troops and 62 infantry divisions, while the German Army mobilized 1,850,000 troops and 87 infantry divisions.
The BEF was deployed on the Western Front in a section of the front lines near Mons. Their first action was the use of massed rifle firing to hold back the German advance. This was highly effective - indeed some Germans thought the British were using machine guns rather than rifles. They then retreated to a more secure defensive location at Le Cateau. At Le Cateau the Germans used different tactics. They fired shrapnel shells at the British lines which prevented them using massed rifle fire. Just short of 8000 men of the BEF, out of 40,000 stationed there, were casualities. Despite this heavy loss the BEF had achieved its objective as the bulk of the forces had been able to to move unattacked into positions closer to Paris that would help to secure the French Capital from attack.
The main rifle carried by British soldiers in 1914 was the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE). Introduced in 1903, the .303 inch calibre weapon had a magazine of ten rounds. While it packed a heavy recoil when fired, regular soldiers before the war were trained to fire a minimum of fifteen aimed rounds per minute, and be able to hit a target every time. This rate of fire was well above any other army in the world, and most soldiers were also trained to engage targets at distances up to 1000 yards. The SMLE had a high stopping power, being able to penetrate eighteen inches of oak, thirty-six inches of sandbags and two house bricks at up to 200 yards range. Source: British Infantryman, 1914-1915. http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/uniform1.htm
BEF: Battles of 1914
Battle of Mons - Wikipedia Entry.
Battle of Le Cateau - Wikipedia entry.