First British troops arriving in France

Photograph of some of the first troops of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) arriving in France: men from the XI Hussars in sight of the port of Le Havre, 16 August 1914.

When war broke out in the summer of 1914, Britain was ill prepared to commit large numbers of troops to a land war in continental Europe. The British Expeditionary Force that was initially sent to France consisted of just six infantry divisions and one cavalry division. The German emperor, Wilhelm II, famously described it as a 'contemptibly small army' - a phrase that was mistranslated into English as the more insulting 'contemptible small army' (hence the nickname 'The Contemptibles'). This small band of BEF troops fought well in early skirmishes at Mons, Ypres and elsewhere. But it was quickly realised that a much larger number of British soldiers was needed to combat the Germans.
IWM Q 51128 16 Aug 1914)
First troops in France
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