Book Review: An Unappreciated Field of Endevour: Logistics and the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, 1914-1918


by Clem Maginniss

Warwick, Eng.: Helion / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. 386. Illus., maps, tables, diag., gloss., notes, biblio., indices. $79.95. ISBN: 1912390175

Supply and the BEF in the Great War

Often neglected by historians, and considered “the boring stuff” by buffs, logistics truly is “an unappreciated” aspect of the art of war, and in this aptly titled treatment former British Army logistical officer Maginniss takes a look at what it took to sustain the BEF in France and Belgium during the Great War. It certainly was a prodigious task, as the BEF grew from about 100,000 men in August of 1914 to over two million by mid-1916, by which time each mile of front held required 1,934 tons of rations, munitions, and other supplies.

In the book’s front matter, Maginniss gives us a valuable series of brief explanation of logistics, various metrics and measurements, and technical terminology. The main text is divided into three parts, each of four chapters.

In “Perceptions and Plans” Maginniss opens with an overview of the BEF’s logistical system, and then chapters on pre-war planning, the role of private enterprise in logistics, and railroads in the mobilization of forces for the BEF and home defense.

“Finding a Way” has chapters on logistical operations during 1914, including one on the Indian Expeditionary Force and one on its movement to France and on its unique logistical requirements, and logistical problems arising during the Somme Offensive in 1916.

The chapters in Part III, “Innovation and Improvisation” address developments in transportation, particularly the increasing motorization of the supply chain, and the complex logistical problems that arose during the famous “Hundred Days’ Offensive” that ended the war.

Maginniss certainly knows his stuff, but his writing is often rather turgid, and he is often repetitive. In addition, as appropriate to the subject, albeit unfortunate, the book has far too many acronyms.

Nevertheless, An Unappreciated Field of Endevour is an essential read for the serious student of the BEF or the history of logistical support of armies.




Note: An Unappreciated Field of Endevour is also available in paper back.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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