Chasing the Great Retreat

The German Cavalry Pursuit of the British Expeditionary Force before the Battle of the Marne August 1914

Colonel (Ret) Joseph Robinson, Sabine Declercq, Randal B. Gilbert

This book details the German attempt to catch the allied forces as they retreated from the Germans designated to ensnare them. It did not succeed. This is an incredible story of missed opportunities for the German cavalry, made more astonishing by the amount of propaganda extolled by some British authors.
Date Published :
March 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
27 b/w photos, 15 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915070838
Pages : 188
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Available


Written as a sequel to the award-winning German Failure in Belgium, August 1914: How Faulty Reconnaissance Exposed the Weakness of the Schlieffen Plan (2019), which won the Tomlinson Book Award for best First World War English language book in 2020, this volume stands alone as the German army chases the well-documented ‘Great Retreat’. We focus on the German side of the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). We show that the Great War should have ended on 23 August 1914 but, due to the ‘fog and friction of war’, as explained by General Carl von Clausewitz, it did not. So, ‘Chasing the BEF’ was born. This is an incredible story of missed opportunities made more astonishing by the amount of propaganda extolled by some British authors. This propaganda line generally purported the story that British firepower dealt a great blow to the German army at the Battle of Mons. Clearly in their eyes, the British won that battle. Much is told about the British soldiers’ ability to fire 15 rounds of aimed shooting in a minute, which allegedly the Germans mistook for machine-gun fire. This is a myth that many readers grew up learning. Britain, in fact, lost the Battle of Mons and should have lost the war on 23 August. Germany missed a wide-open door that would have spelled disaster for the BEF and the entire Left Flank of the French army.

We focus on the role of the German cavalry. This arm is seriously understudied and has had little place in some official histories. In general, both British and German works ignore the role the cavalry played in the war. We are talking about the Right Wing of the German army only, consisting of the German First Army, Second Army and two cavalry formations known as Höherer Kavallerie-Kommandeur (HKK 1 and HKK 2 ). The HKK were ad hoc organizations that had never been tested before the war. They are often wrongly referred to as a cavalry corps – the cavalry did not become a corps until 1915 – but neither were they similar to an infantry corps. However, many authors do not understand the concept of the HKK and therefore do not address the cavalry in operational maneuvers. This oversight is truly bizarre: The most mobile forces in warfare are given short shrift. Why?

About The Author

Colonel (Ret) Joseph Robinson has written a series of books about WWI German topics. He taught at the US Army War College and his last book "German Failure in Belgium" was awarded the Tomlinson prize for the best book in the English language about WWI in 2020. Colonel Joe Robinson resides with his wife Colonel Janet Robinson in Pensacola Florida.

Sabine is an independent Belgian battlefield guide for years now, guiding the Salient, Somme and Arras, speaks fluently Dutch, French and English, been learning German for a few years now, including Fractur. One of her hobbies is collecting postcards WW1 related. Some of these cards have been used by other authors in the past. She likes to wonder of on the fields like her grandfather used to do. Cats and hats are also one of her passions. This is her first book as a co- author.


"... a worthy addition to the literature that already exists on the Battle of the Frontiers in August 1914..."

- The NYMAS Review

"This masterful and interesting analysis of German cavalry use in 1914 includes a goodly portion of German infantry and artillery movements during the wheel towards Paris...The discussion of German logistics arrangements and reality is excellent."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"The book’s day by day reporting of unit placements, confused orders, and missed opportunities is a treasure source. Each day’s report is illustrated with a daily map."

- Roads to the Great War

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