British Expeditionary Force
The Final Advance
September to November 1918
Barnsely, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2018
Hardback 218pp RRP $52.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, March 2023
This is Andrew Rawson’s tenth and final volume on the BEF on the Western Front in the First World War. It covers the battles of the five British and Empire Armies along a 150-mile front from mid-September and includes the politicking during the last couple of weeks prior to the Armistice.
The level of unit histories kept during this period varies in detail, but the manoeuvre of each Army, their corps and divisions and the Victoria Cross battle recipients are most comprehensive and complete. Well-detailed maps enable the reader to carefully follow the details of individual battles.
In the Battle of Amiens on 8th August, a seven-division combined-arms attack by Australians, Canadians and British punched a fifteen-mile hole in the German frontage south of the Somme. The Germans labelled it ‘a black day of the German Army’. From that date the Allies were able to exert constant pressure on the German forces, and by late September most armies were within striking distance of the Hindenburg Line.
Whilst both sides suffered very high casualties in theses last ten weeks, Allied forces continued to capture large number of prisoners and weapons, thus reducing Germany’s ability to defend in depth or mount counter attacks. The realization they could not replace lost manpower and get weapons and ammunition to the front, force the Germans to acknowledge their inevitable defeat. The last weeks saw them try to gain a stronger position from which to bargain their surrender.
Rawson has documented in incredible detail the BEF and all its units in a compact volume containing 60 maps, with an excellent index of key personnel and all Allied battalions listed. A most interesting and readable account of the last days of the Great War.