The second British Expeditionary Force was sent to help France in 1939, after the German invasion of Poland. Following the German offensive which swept through the Low Countries and bypassed the Maginot Line via the Ardennes, France collapsed and the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from Dunkirk, so as to remain available to the British in later parts of the war.
British Expeditionary Force in The War That Came EarlyEdit
The Second British Expeditionary Force was sent to help France in 1938, after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following the German offensive which swept through the Low Countries and bypassed the Maginot Line via the Ardennes, France continued to present a fierce resistance to the invaders. The British Expeditionary Force kept up the fighting retreat along with its French ally and with exiled Czech and Belgian troops, though cut off from Britain by the German occupation of Dunkirk and other Channel ports. British troops of the BEF had a key role in the Battle of Paris, where the German advance was halted at the very outskirts of the French capital.
After Paris had been saved, the BEF along with their French allies continued pushing at the Germans, slowly, but successfully driving them back. Although they received new tanks, they were still nothing compared to the Germans'. When the Germans invaded Norway, some of the BEF were diverted to the country to help shore up the Norwegians. However, because of the rush to get troops there, many troops arrived without proper gear. They were issued winter clothing, but lacked ski-troops and tanks, something their German opposite numbers had no shortage off.
After the 'Big Switch' of 1940, the BEF withdrew from Norway and France and found itself in Russia, fighting the Soviets. They were fighting on the northern flank of the German army and its other ally's armies, until the coup in 1941.
The new military-led British government ordered the BEF to cease fighting and defend itself against attack from any quarter. The Germans, however, responded by an immediate attack on the British force while the Soviets welcomed them. The BEF left for Arkhangelsk, via Soviet territory, where they headed back for Britain.
Once France had followed Britain lead and broke off its own alliance with Germany in the winter of 1941, there was talk of the BEF heading once more back to France, with a view to reopening the Western Front against Germany.