On September 12th it was offically announced that British troops were in France, but they had not seen any action. Troop trains arrived at British ports in quick sucession from many parts of England and Scotland, as transport ships of different types and sizes waited to take them across the Channel to France.
The secrecy of the departure of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), for France was very well kept and not until they were safely across the Channel was any official announcement made. The local people around the British ports were the first to realise something what happening as army lorries constantly passed through and the increase in noise from trains rumbling by.
The last time the BEF had been in France in 1914 it’s equipment was very different. Rather than having to take thousands of horses along to pull artillery, ambulances and equipment this time everything was on motor-transport wagons later supplemented by lorries and vans. In the first world war one million horses were used and only 60,000 returned. The change in equipment of the infantry was also strikingly different, in WW1 steel helmets were not issued until the end of 1915 and no gas masks were carried, but their equipment still managed to weight 66lbs by 1916, which made it difficult to get out of a trench or to move very quickly, in fact most movement was a slow walk!
“The men of the BEF have gone to the front with smiling faces and in France they have won the same opinions of the French as their father’s did in 1914.” (Really????)
War Illustrated October 7th 1939