Sir John French had been appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in March 1912 and was promoted Field Marshal in June 1913. Following the Curragh incident in March 1914 he was forced to resign, nevertheless when war broke out he was given command of the BEF; he was nearly sixty-two years of age. Critics have argued that French's military experience, ability, acumen and temperament showed he was unfitted for such a command. Certainly his moods swung like a pendulum from over-optimism to deepest gloom. He was convinced during the retreat from Mons that disaster was inevitable, to the point that Kitchener had to come out and stiffen his resolve. In May 1915 he sacked Smith-Dorrien, commanding Second Army, among other things for making a stand at Le Cateau, (26/27 August 1914) having previously commended him for his action (see Despatch dated 7 Sep 1914). Following the unsuccessful attack on Aubers Ridge in May 1915, as a means of bringing pressure to bear on the government he revealed details of what he held to be the scandal of ammunition shortages to the military correspondent of The Times, and the ensuing article played a significant part in the decision to form a coalition government. The failure of the Loos offensive, the culmination of a year of failures, was the final nail in the coffin, especially as there was a sharp disagreement between French and Haig (commanding First Army which fought the battle) about the former's handling of the reserve. French claimed in his despatch dated 15 Oct 1915 that he had put the 21st and 24th Divisions from GHQ reserve at Haig's disposal at 0930 25th September and the Guards Division on the morning of the 26th. Haig formally protested that these statements were incorrect, that these divisions did not come under his command till later than stated and he wished that fact to be placed on record. In December 1915 This book contains eight despatches. The first, dated 7th Sep covers the arrival of the BEF in France, the Battle of Mons and the retreat to 28th Aug. The second takes the story on to 10th Sep describing the Battle of the Marne and the advance to the Aisne. The next despatch deals with the Battle of the Aisne and, of especial interest to medallists, is accompanied by the complete list, by regiments, of all Mentioned in Despatches since the beginning of the war. Subsequent despatches cover 1st Ypres, the Winter Campaign, Neuve Chapelle, 2nd Ypres (German gas attack) and Loos with three more lists of MiD awards totalling some 360 pages.

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