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WWII 1940 why was the BEF so small?

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Craze_b0i View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 Apr 2013 at 07:14
Something that always puzzled me. In 1939-40 why was the BEF so tiny compared to the army of France? Both countries had relatively similar populations. Presumably both had troops in the colonies.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Apr 2013 at 08:44
- The UK was maintaining a much larger navy and that was a serious burden.
- They assessed French army and the BEF would be enough to stop a German offensive.
- Also the UK only kept conscription for three years (1916-1919). It is not possible to maintain a large land force without conscription.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Craze_b0i Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Apr 2013 at 09:16
Ah thanks for that.

So no conscription in 1939 then? I did not realize that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Apr 2013 at 00:17
They started to conscription in 1939 according to wikipedia. British Empire was already streched too much. Effectively controlling all that territories was impossible with strength of British economy. British was also counting French on contending Italian Navy in Mediterranean Sea. But British forced to face Germany, Italy and Japan threat alone for a considerable time following early defeat of French. Their navy only capable of contending Germans and Italians together. Being outmatched in Asia forced British to build new battleships and aircraft carriers. These resourses could very well can be diverted to army.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2013 at 06:24
It wasn't of course just that conscription only started in 1939 compared to other countries, it was that there was no trained or battle-ready reserve available for some while later. And of course at the beginning the general assumption was that the French army alone could at least hold the Germans.

The only reason Britain might have given more emphasis to its army would have been if there was any intent to perhaps invade the European mainland by itself. Which there would never have been.

On a point of detail though, Britain never faced Japan alone except for a day or two in December 1941. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jan 2014 at 06:13
The British kept a small (comparatively) 'regular' of professional soldiers that produced a small reserve. There was then another reserve of 'Territorials' weekend warriors.

Conscription was then introduced in 1939 but these guys had all to be trained and equipped from effectively scratch.

The USA would have the same problem if there was a war in France (as in WWI say)on American entry in WWII how big would the US army have been in France less than a year later?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AnchoriticSybarite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 May 2017 at 19:51
Overreliance on the RN and the philosophy of maintaining an Empire on the cheap.
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