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The Great War
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The British Expeditionary Force
Peter Simkins
"I think, in both battles which the British Expeditionary Force fought in the first week of combat, as it were, at Mons and Le Cateau, the soldiers there thought they'd done rather well in terms of holding off the oncoming masses for some time.

"I think the fact that they still then had to pull back, added to the sense of frustration and the exhaustion.

"It's always much harder to recoup one's morale and one's physical well-being in a confusion of a retreat when you're separated from elements of your unit.

"You don't know where you're going: it's dark; you're in a foreign country; you're not stopping anywhere; you're not putting down roots. So in that sense, you've got no points of reference to hang onto, particularly if your unit is marching along through different roads and you don't know where your mates are. You become separated; you don't know when your next rations are going to arrive, and so on.

"Secondly, the point about the soldiers not being combat ready: your boots hurt, and you're walking (straggling) something like 20 miles a day in the wrong direction; and you're getting blisters, and you're hot – all these things make you feel bad. It's not particularly that you're always under attack, but there's this neurosis of the enemies being at your heels. You don't know where anybody is, and who's in command. And it's not exactly disintegration, but it's a kind of terrible uncertainty, and I think that's probably as sapping physically and morally as anything – it's just sheer uncertainly of not knowing where you are."

 
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