Antwerp 1914

The intervention of Mr. Churchill and the Royal Naval Division at Antwerp in early October, 1914, failed to save the city, writes David Woodward, but the vital Channel ports were thereby saved.

With memories of earlier Spanish and French wars behind them, it is not surprising that, at the opening of the First World War, Antwerp should have exercised the attention of the British authorities. Mr. Terraine related in his recent article on “The Genesis of the Western Front” (History Today, July last) that, at the Council of War convened by the Prime Minister on August 5th, Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief designate of the British Expeditionary Force, suggested that the proper destination of his force should be Antwerp and not Maubeuge.

This he did despite the fact that Maubeuge had already been chosen by both British and French, and that the long and complicated preparatory work of organization was already done. That the British Commander-in-Chief should casually suggest jettisoning years of staff work, and making fresh plans for a campaign already begun, is one of the most curious features of that curious Council of War.

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