A new book takes a fresh and new perspective to the critical contribution of particular components of military and commercial logistics to the preparations of the British and Empire Armies in the pre-war period and during the Great War.
An Unappreciated Field of Endeavour – Logistics and the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front 1914-1918, by Lt Col Clement Maginniss, explores the success of the BEF’s Quartermaster-General, Wully Robertson, in utilising the skill of his logistic planners and soldiers to deliver the agile operational logistic capability that was the salvation of the BEF in 1914.
Also examined, is the long forgotten but extraordinary logistic feat of deploying Indian Expeditionary Force A to France, through the mobilisation and transportation of its soldiers across deserts and oceans before its complex logistic integration to the BEF in France.
Logistics were fundamental to the use of tanks in the Great War, an aspect comprehensively examined, to assess how transportation in particular, constrained the development of operational deployments.
The book also analyses how, in 1918, the BEF’s logisticians were able to generate the capability to sustain All-Arms mobile three dimensional combat operations in a chemical warfare environment, whilst maintaining the momentum of the advance, having focused mainly upon supporting siege warfare for the previous four years.
All these threads are drawn together to weave a colourful pattern of achievement, whilst illustrating how logistics evolved to overcome complex challenges and in doing so, transformed operations, creating a Great War legacy that links to defence logistics in the 21st Century, particularly in the expanding arena of contractor support to operations.
On the Western Front, the BEF’s enormous logistic capability was not an end in itself but a vital means to achieve the military aim, an observation as valid today as it was in 1918.