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British Expeditionary Force (World War I

The British Expeditionary Force or BEF was the force sent to the Western
Front led by General J ohn French (later to become Field Marshall) during the
First World War.
Planning for a British Expeditionary Force began with the Haldane reforms of
the British Army carried out by the Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane
following the Second Boer War (1899–1902).
The term "British Expeditionary Force" is often used to refer only to the forces
present in France prior to the end of the First Battle of Ypres on 22 November
1914. By the end of 1914—after the battles of Mons, the Le Cateau, the Aisne
and Ypres—the old regular British army had been wiped out, although it
managed to help stop the German advance. An alternative endpoint of the BEF
was 26 December 1914, when it was divided into the First and Second Armies
(a third, fourth and fifth being created later in the war). B.E.F. remained the
official name of the British Army in France and Flanders throughout the First
World War.
On the 9th August the BEF began embarking for France. Unlike Continental
European armies, the BEF in 1914 was exceedingly small. At the beginning of
the war the German and French armies numbered well over a million men each,
divided into eight and five field armies respectively; the BEF had c. 80,000
soldiers in two corps of entirely professional soldiers made up of long-service
volunteer soldiers and reservists. The BEF was probably the best trained and
most experienced of the European armies of 1914. British Army training
emphasized rapid marksmanship and the average British soldier was able to hit
a man-sized target fifteen times a minute, at a range of 300 yards (270 m) with
his Lee-Enfield rifle. This ability to generate a high volume of accurate rifle-fire
played an important role in the BEF's battles of 1914.
Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, who was famously dismissive of the BEF,
reportedly issued an order on 19 August 1914 to "exterminate... the treacherous
English and walk over General French's contemptible little army". Hence, in
later years, the survivors of the regular army dubbed themselves "The Old
Contemptibles". No evidence of any such order being issued by the Kaiser has
ever been found. It was probably a British propaganda invention, albeit one
often repeated as fact.

Field Marshal Sir John French, KP GCB