Remembering the British Expeditionary Force
09 August 2012
On 9th August 1914 - five days after Britain declared war
on Germany - the British Expeditionary Force began embarking for
A tiny force compared with the enormous continental armies of a
million or more men, the BEF was an entirely professional force
made up of long service volunteer soldiers.
It had the best-trained and most experienced soldiers and so was
able to fight extremely effectively in the early months of the war
- in spite of facing overwhelming numbers.
It fought a number of important engagements in the late
Summer and Autumn of 1914. The BEF thus played a large part in
halting the German advance.
By the end of the year, the original BEF - supposedly called
"that contemptible little army" by the Kaiser - had ceased to
exist. In December it was divided into the First and Second Armies,
although it was called the British Expeditionary Force throughout
the First World War.
Those" old contemptibles" of the BEF, who fell in the fighting
of !914, are buried or commemorated in cemeteries and on memorials
from Mons to Ypres.
The cemetery pictured is St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in
Belgium, which contains many casualties from the Battle of Mons.
Among those commemorated in the cemetery is Private John Parr of
the Middlesex Regiment who was fatally wounded during an encounter
with a German patrol two days before the battle, thus becoming the
first British soldier to be killed in action on the Western