Posted by: Author | December 5, 2014

Friday Facts- December 5, 2014- The Old Contemptibles

In the beginning of the first world war, there was a British Expeditionary force led by Sir John French. They were sent to France and Belgium and the Expeditionary Force only refers to the members of the regular British army who were in that area prior to the first battle of Ypres in November, 1914. They helped stop the German advance in France but at a great loss of life (at about 1/2 the troops). This was also the area where that famous cease fire at Christmas happened.

Emperor Wilhelm of Germany was not a big fan of the British Expeditionary force since it was actually pretty small for a regular army. The story is that he directed his army to “exterminate the treacherous British and walk over French’s contemptible little army.”

The survivors of this force defiantly adopted this as their name. There’s a tribute to them on one of the walls at Westminster Abbey. There’s also a pub or two with the name. There was a 100 year anniversary exhibition this year in Flanders, Belgium. See here for more info. Here’s a link to an article on the last survivor (died in 2006)- very interesting. And Martha Grimes, one of my favorite authors wrote one of her Inspector Jury books set in a pub named The Old Contemptibles. BEF, Old Contemptibles memorial


  1. That cease-fire at Christmas is my favorite war story. What a tough group the Contemptibles had to be to do what they did. Wow.

    • I Love that story, too, Laurie. Would that we could all be that way all year! No more needless loss of life.

  2. Interesting post about a unique group. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Flossie. I admire the heck out of these guys.

  3. Another interesting fact. I haven’t read the story but have heard of the Christmas truce.

    • Thanks Lavada. I love that truce moment

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