Siege of Maubeuge, 25 August-7 September 1914

Siege of Maubeuge, 25 August-7 September 1914


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Siege of Maubeuge, 25 August-7 September 1914

The fortress of Maubeuge stood on the River Sambre, just inside France. In August 1914 it stood directly in the line of the great German sweep through Belgium that was at the heart of the Schlieffen Plan. Initially the French did not believe that any significant German forces were north of the Sambre, but when they finally realised what was going on, Joffre ordered the French Fifth army north to defend the line of the river. At the same time the BEF was approaching Mons, due north of Maubeuge, in preparation for a planned Allied advance further into Belgium.

The French move came too late to prevent the Germans gaining a foothold on the south bank of the Sambre on 21 August (battle of the Sambre). On 23 August, as the British were fighting at Mons, the Germans began to cross the Meuse, east of the French position, threatening to cut them off. General Lanrezac was forced to order a retreat. The developing German threat also forced the BEF to retreat, despite holding the Germans at bay during the day at Mons.

The British and French retreat left the fortress at Maubeuge isolated. Rather than abandon the place, on 25 August General Fournier was ordered to defend the fortress, in the hope that the defence might delay the Germans. Instead, the Germans detached the VII Reserve corps to besiege Maubeuge, while the rest of the army continued to advance into France.

Maubeuge was defended by fourteen forts, a garrison of 30,000 French soldiers (mostly territorials), and 10,000 Allied stragglers. The German VII Reserve corps contained two divisions, perhaps 34,000 men in total, supported by the efficient German heavy artillery.

On 29 August the Germans began a systematic bombardment of the forts around Maubeuge. On 5 September, after a week long bombardment, four of the fourteen forts were stormed by German infantry, creating a gap in the defences. On 7 September the garrison surrendered. The Germans took 40,000 prisoners and captured 377 guns.

On the same day that VII Reserve corps stormed the forts at Maubeuge, the first battle of the Marne began (5-10 September). By the end of the siege, the German advance was in crisis. Two days later, on 9 September, the leading German armies were forced to retreat, to take up a new line on the Aisne. During the first battle of the Aisne (13-28 September) the Allies came close to breaking through a gap in the German lines, but were stopped by the arrival of the German Seventh Army. One of the units that made up this army was the VII Reserve corps, which marched forty miles in twenty four hours, and reached the gap just one hour before the Allies.

Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War


După Războiul Franco-Prusac din 1870-1871 francezii au construit mai multe fortărețe pe granița germană și au extins fortificațiile de frontieră înspre nord prin construirea unor fortificații noi la Hirson, Maubeuge, Lille și Dunkerque. [1]

Pregătirea defensivei franceze Modificare

Pe 7 august generalul Fournier, comandantul regiunii fortificate Maubeuge, a avertizat conducerea Armatei Franceze cu privire la posibilitatea declanșării unei ofensive germane peste râul Meuse, pregătită de șase corpuri de armată. Generalul Joseph Joffre l-a eliberat din funcție pe Fournier pe motiv de defetism și l-a înlocuit cu generalul Desaleux, dar s-a răzgândit după ce generalul Paul Pau, trimis pentru a examina situația de la Maubeuge, a recomandat repunerea în funcție a lui Fournier. [2] La Consiliul Britanic de Război din 12 august, feldmareșalul Kitchener a prevăzut o ofensivă germană prin Belgia, dar a trimis Corpul Expediționar Britanic (BEF) către Maubeuge așa cum era planificat, în loc să se concentreze mai în spate, la Amiens. Kitchener i-a ordonat generalului John French să nu se considere sub comanda Armatei Franceze, dar, de dragul alianței, a subordonat strategia britanică celei franceze. [3] BEF a aterizat în Franța în perioada 14-17 august și a luat în primire postul de apărare aflat pe flancul drept al Armatei a V-a Franceze de la Maubeuge către Le Cateau în jurul datei de 20 august. [4] Dimineața următoare a fost cețoasă și nu s-a putut efectua nici o recunoaștere aeriană până după-amiază. BEF a început să avanseze către nord de la Maubeuge spre Mons, în ciuda faptului că avioanele de recunoaștere au raportat că o coloană germană „se întindea în zona Louvain cât se vedea cu ochii”. [5]

Pregătirea ofensivei germane Modificare

Posibilitatea concentrării BEF la Maubeuge era cunoscută de germanilor, dar în același timp era considerată posibilă și o concentrare în porturile de la Marea Mânecii. Pe 21 august, generalul Karl von Bülow a ordonat Armatei I (conduse de generalul Alexander von Kluck) să-și schimbe direcția către sud, în direcția orașului Maubeuge. Pe 24 august, Corpul al VII-lea, de pe flancul drept al Armatei a II-a, a avansat până ce Divizia 13 a fost nevoită să se oprească din cauza focului de artilerie de la Maubeuge. Corpul de armată a primit ordinul să blocheze limita de sud-est a orașului, cu Divizia a 13-a, și să avanseze către flancul drept al BEF la sud de Maubeuge spre Aulnoye împreună cu restul unităților pe 25 august. Vestea a sosit după căderea majorității fortificațiilor din Namur, iar și recunoașterea aeriană a adus informația că începuse retragerea franceză către o linie fortificată ce se întindea de la Verdun către Mézières și Maubeuge. Divizia a 14-a a Corpului VII de Rezervă a primit ordinul de a se deplasa înspre sud către Binche pentru a se alătura corpurilor IX și VII pentru a izola orașul Maubeuge de pe ambele părți ale râului Sambre. Germanii au avut impresia că BEF era pe cale de a fi încercuit, dar după-amiaza s-a aflat că BEF a scăpat din încercuire. Bulow l-a făcut pe generalul von Einem responsabil cu izolarea orașului Maubeuge, prin Corpul VII (fără Divizia a 14-a), Corpul VII de Rezervă (fără Divizia a 13-a de Rezervă), Corpul IX și unitățile de artilerie și de asediu transferate aici după căderea orașului Namur. [6]

Încercuirea orașului a început pe 26 august și a doua zi, Zwehl a primit ordinul de a conduce atacul către Maubeuge, cu Corpul VII de Rezervă și Divizia a 17-a a Corpului IX restul trupelor de la Maubeuge au fost trimise spre sud în urmărirea armatelor franco-britanice. Pe 27 august, Divizia a 13-a de Rezervă a fost trimisă la Maubeuge și Corpul VII a primit ordinul de a lăsa o brigadă în urmă și să pornească în marș către sud. Zwehl a plănuit să atace fortificația din nord-est, cu un atac secundar organizat la sud de Sambre. Trei sectoare au fost stabilite, unul de la pârâul Trouille către Sambre la sud de Maubeuge, al doilea de la Sambre către pârâul Solre și cel de-al treilea sector de la Solre către Sambre în partea de nord a fortificațiilor. Un regiment de cavalerie trebuia să acopere breșele din nord și vest. 21 de baterii de artilerie grea și supergrea de la Namur urmau să fie desfășurate între Givry și Solre. [7] În jurul datei de 2 septembrie, Brigada 27 Infanterie de Rezervă a preluat sectorul 1, Brigada 26 Infanterie s-a stabilit în sectorul sudic și elemente ale Diviziei a 13-a de Rezervă au preluat un al patrulea sector către vest în jurul localității Bavay. [8]

În dimineața zilei de 24 august, French a amenințat că va retrage Corpul Expediționar Britanic din componența Armatei a V-a Franceză și se va deplasa către Amiens, până când el a fost convins de Joffre să păstreze BEF în fortăreața Maubeuge. Mai târziu în acea zi Armata a II-a Germană a început atacul asupra orașului Maubeuge, iar în ziua următoarea orașul a fost încercuit. Marele Cartier General Francez (GQG) i-a ordonat comandantului fortăreței să reziste cât mai mult în fața forțelor germane. În perioada 29 august - 5 septembrie fortăreața Maubeuge a fost bombardată de artileria germană grea și supergrea. Infanteria germană a atacat fortăreața pe 5 septembrie, iar a doua zi a luat cu asalt cele patru forturi încercuite. În seara zilei de 6 septembrie, zona fortificată Maubeuge s-a predat germanilor. [9]

Victime Modificare

În Principal Events, 1914-1918 (1922), istoricii oficiali britanici consemnează că 40.000 de militari francezi au fost luați prizonieri. [9] În 2009, Herwig a consemnat că germanii au luat 32.692 de prizonieri și 450 de tunuri, atunci când Maubeuge a capitulat pe 6 septembrie. [10] Pierderile germane au fost de 1.100 de militari. [7]

Operațiuni ulterioare Modificare

Pe 9 noiembrie 1918, Maubeuge a fost reocupat de Divizia de Gardă Britanică și de Divizia 62 Cavalerie Britanică. [11]


Contents

Belgian plans Edit

Belgian military planning assumed that other powers would assist the Belgian Army to eject an invader and a formal alliance between France and Britain was not solidified by a potential German invasion, despite the Anglo-French Entente (1904). The Belgians judged that the British attitude towards their country had changed and that Belgium had come to be seen as a British protectorate. A General Staff was formed in 1910 but the Chef d'État-Major Général de l'Armée, Lieutenant-Général Harry Jungbluth was retired on 30 June 1912 and not replaced by Lieutenant-General Chevalier de Selliers de Moranville until May 1914. Moranville began planning for the concentration of the army and met Belgian railway officials on 29 July. [2]

The Belgian army was to be massed in central Belgium, in front of the National redoubt of Belgium, ready to face any border, while the Fortified Position of Liège and Fortified Position of Namur were left to secure the frontiers. On mobilisation, the King became Commander-in-Chief and chose where the army was to concentrate. Amid the disruption of the new rearmament plan, disorganised and poorly trained Belgian soldiers would benefit from a central position to delay contact with an invader but it would also need fortifications for defence, which were on the frontier. A school of thought wanted a return to a frontier deployment, in line with French theories of the offensive. Belgian plans became a compromise, in which the field army concentrated behind the Gete river, with two divisions further forward at Liège and Namur. [3]

Schlieffen–Moltke Plan Edit

Alfred von Schlieffen, Chief of the Imperial German General Staff (Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL) from 1891–1906, devised plans for a decisive battle against the French army in Germany, Belgium or France. Aufmarsch I West was a contingency plan for a Franco-German war, in which France (due to fewer numbers) would be on the defensive and Germany would attack by invading Belgium between Antwerp and Namur to advance south and breach the Verdun–Marne–Paris defensive area. The German armies would then pause until railways could be repaired and supplies accumulated for a second offensive operation. [4] Helmuth von Moltke the Younger succeeded Schlieffen in 1906 and became convinced that an isolated Franco-German war was impossible and that Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces would not be available to defend the Franco-German border as had been planned. Aufmarsch I was abolished but in 1914 Moltke tried to apply the offensive strategy of Aufmarsch I to the deployment plan Aufmarsch II for a two-front war,

From his assessment of French defensive capability Schlieffen concluded that the German army would need at least 48.5 corps to succeed with an attack on France by way of Belgium, but Moltke planned to attack through Belgium with just 34 corps at his disposal in the west. The Schlieffen plan [sic] amounts to a critique of German strategy in 1914 since it clearly predicted the failure of Moltke’s underpowered invasion of France. [. ] Moltke followed the trajectory of the Schlieffen plan, but only up to the point where it was painfully obvious that he would have needed the army of the Schlieffen plan to proceed any further along these lines. [5]

The main German force tried to follow Aufmarsch I to envelop the French armies on the left (north) and press them back over the Meuse, Aisne, Somme, Oise, Marne and Seine rivers, unable to withdraw into central France. Moltke hoped that the French would either be annihilated or the manoeuvre from the north would create conditions for victory in the centre or in Lorraine, on the common border. [6]

Plan XVII Edit

Under Plan XVII, the French peacetime army was to form five field armies of c. 2,000,000 men, with groups of Reserve divisions attached to each army and with a group of reserve divisions on the southern and northern flanks. The armies were to concentrate opposite the German frontier around Épinal, Nancy and Verdun–Mezières, with an army in reserve around Ste Menehould and Commercy. Since 1871, railway building had given the French General Staff sixteen lines to the German frontier against thirteen available to the German army the French could wait until German intentions were clear. The French deployment was intended to be ready for a German offensive in Lorraine or through Belgium. It was anticipated that the Germans would use reserve troops but also that a large German army would be mobilised on the border with Russia, leaving the western army with sufficient troops only to advance through Belgium south of the Meuse and the Sambre rivers. French intelligence had obtained a map exercise of the German general staff of 1905, in which German troops had gone no further north than Namur and assumed that plans to besiege Belgian forts were a defensive measure against the Belgian army. [7]


A German attack from south-eastern Belgium towards Mézières and a possible offensive from Lorraine towards Verdun, Nancy and St. Dié was anticipated. The plan was an evolution of Plan XVI and made more provision for the possibility of a German offensive through Belgium. The First, Second and Third armies were to concentrate between Épinal and Verdun opposite Alsace and Lorraine, the Fifth Army was to assemble from Montmédy to Sedan and Mézières. The Fourth Army was to be held back, west of Verdun, ready to move east to attack the southern flank of a German invasion through Belgium or southwards against the northern flank of an attack through Lorraine. No formal provision was made for combined operations with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) but joint arrangements had been made and in 1911, during the Second Moroccan Crisis, the French had been told that six divisions could be expected to operate around Maubeuge. [8]

Declarations of war Edit

At midnight on 31 July/1 August, the German government sent an ultimatum to Russia and announced a state of Kriegsgefahr during the day the Ottoman government ordered mobilisation and the London Stock Exchange closed. On 1 August, the British government ordered the mobilisation of the navy, the German government ordered general mobilisation and declared war on Russia. Hostilities commenced on the Polish frontier the French government ordered general mobilisation and next day the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium demanding free passage, as German troops crossed the frontier of Luxembourg. Military operations began on the French frontier, Libau was bombarded by a German light cruiser SMS Augsburg and the British government guaranteed naval protection for French coasts. On 3 August, the Belgian Government refused German demands and the British Government guaranteed military support to Belgium, should Germany invade. Germany declared war on France, the British government ordered general mobilisation and Italy declared neutrality. On 4 August, the British government sent an ultimatum to Germany and declared war at midnight on 4/5 August, Central European Time. Belgium severed diplomatic relations with Germany and Germany declared war on Belgium. German troops crossed the Belgian frontier and attacked Liège. [9]

French offensive preparations Edit

Joseph Joffre, who had been Commander-in-Chief of the French army since 1911 and the Minister of War, Adolphe Messimy met on 1 August, to agree that the military conduct of the war should exclusively be the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief. On 2 August, as small parties of German soldiers crossed the French border, Messimy told Joffre that he had the freedom to order French troops across the German but not the Belgian frontier. Joffre sent warning orders to the covering forces near the frontier, requiring the VII Corps to prepare to advance towards Mühlhausen (Mulhouse) to the north-east of Belfort and XX Corps to make ready to begin an offensive towards Nancy. As soon as news arrived that German troops had entered Luxembourg, the Fourth Army was ordered to move between the Third and Fifth armies, ready to attack to the north of Verdun. Operations into Belgium were forbidden, to deny the Germans a pretext until 4 August, when it was certain that German troops had already violated the Belgian border. To comply with the Franco-Russian Alliance, Joffre ordered an invasion of Alsace-Lorraine on for 14 August, although anticipating a German offensive through Belgium. [10]

On 8 August General Instruction No. 1 had ordered the Fifth Army to take a position on the left of the Fourth Army, ready to attack the southern flank of German force advancing from Mézières and Mouzon, through the difficult terrain in between. All four corps covered this front until 12 August, when Joffre allowed General Charles Lanrezac to move I Corps north to Givet to oppose a potential German attempt to cross the Meuse between Givet and Namur 35 km (22 mi) further north, which extended the army front to 80 km (50 mi). As Lanrezac became aware of the size of the German force in Belgium and wanted to reinforce the left flank by moving to Namur, Joffre refused to allow the army front to be extended to 110 km (68 mi) and ordered Lanrezac to keep the army in a central position near Mézières, ready to oppose a German offensive from Mouzon to Namur. On 14 August Joffre and Lanrezac met but Joffre considered that only a few German cavalry and infantry parties had crossed the Meuse. With the BEF moving to Maubeuge and Hirson a redeployment of the Fifth Army would disrupt the deployment of the other armies. On 14 August a new intelligence report showed eight German corps between Luxembourg and Liège and by the next day Joffre allowed the move of the Fifth Army north, to operate beyond the Meuse. The XI Corps was transferred to the Fourth Army and the XVIII Corps was moved from the Third Army to the Fifth Army, which was made responsible for the defence of Maubeuge. [11]

Joffre began to dismiss commanders in early August, beginning with the VII Corps commander Bonneau and by 6 September had removed two army, ten corps and 38 divisional commanders, by transferring them to Limoges (Limogé). The VII Corps in the south was reinforced by two divisions, a cavalry division and the First Group of Reserve Divisions. The corps was renamed the Army of Alsace, to relieve the First Army of concern about Alsace during the operations in Lorraine. Two corps were removed from the Second Army and became a strategic reserve. [12] Joffre met Sir John French on 16 August and learned that the British could be ready by 24 August, Joffre also arranged for Territorial divisions to cover the area from Maubeuge to Dunkirk. The German siege of the Liège forts ended on 16 August and the 1st and 2nd armies with twelve corps and the 3rd Army with four corps began to advance behind cavalry screens. On 18 August, Joffre ordered the Fifth Army to prepare for a German offensive on both banks of the Meuse or to meet a small force on the north bank. The Fifth Army began to move towards Namur, in the angle of the Meuse and Sambre rivers on 19 August, which required a march of 100 km (62 mi) by some units. [13]

French plan of attack Edit

On 5 August, Joffre ordered an offensive by the VII Corps, on the right flank of the First Army, to begin on 7 August towards Mulhouse. The capture of the 2nd Army order of battle on 7 August, convinced Joffre that the strength of the German forces on the flanks had left the centre weak and vulnerable to an offensive towards Neufchâteau and Arlon. [14] On 8 August, Joffre issued General Instruction No. 1, containing his strategic intent, which was to destroy the German army rather than capture ground. The offensive into Alsace and that by the First and Second armies into Lorraine, would pin down German forces and attract reinforcements, as the main offensive further north drove in the German centre and outflanked the German forces in Belgium from the south. Joffre expected that the attack into the German centre would meet little resistance. The First and Second armies would advance south of the German fortified area from Metz–Thionville, with the Fourth Reserve Group guarding the northern flank near Hirson, to watch the Chimay Gap and deflect a German attack from the north or east. The strategy assumed that the main German force would be deployed around Luxembourg and from Metz–Thionville, with smaller forces in Belgium. On 9 August, an intelligence report had one German active corps near Freiburg close to the Swiss border, three near Strasbourg, four in Luxembourg to the north of Thionville and six from Liège in Belgium, towards the north end of Luxembourg, which left five corps un-located. The French general staff inferred that they were between Metz-Thionville and Luxembourg, ready to advance towards Sedan or Mézières. [15]

Joffre set 14 August as the date when the First and Second armies were to invade Lorraine between Toul and Épinal, south of the German fortified area of Metz-Thionville. The First Army was to attack in the south with four corps, towards Sarrebourg 60 km (37 mi) east of Nancy and Donon 25 km (16 mi) south of Sarrebourg. Passes in the Vosges to the south of Donon were to be captured before the main advance began. The Second Army was to attack towards Morhange 45 km (28 mi) north-east of Nancy, with two corps north of the First Army and three advancing successively behind the left flank of the corps to the south, to counter a German attack from Metz. The French offensive was complicated by the two armies diverging as they advanced, on difficult terrain particularly in the south, the combined fronts eventually being 150 km (93 mi) wide. [16] The advances of the First and Second armies were to attract German forces towards the south, while a French manoeuvre took place in Belgium and Luxembourg, to pierce a weak point in the German deployment and then destroy the main German armies. [17]

News that German forces were attacking towards the Meuse bridges south of Namur, led Joffre to expect a German attack from Mézières to Givet, 40 km (25 mi) further north, intended to envelop the French northern flank and another force to try to cross the Meuse from Montmédy to Sedan. On 12 August, Joffre allowed Lanrezac to move the I Corps west to Dinant on the Meuse and on 15 August, Joffre ordered the bulk of the Fifth Army to move north-west behind the Sambre. No large German force was expected to cross to the north of the Meuse, which made the French general staff certain that the German centre was weaker than expected. On 18 August, Joffre directed the Third, Fourth and Fifth armies, together with the Belgians and British, to attack the German armies around Thionville and Luxembourg, where 13–15 German corps were thought to have assembled. The Third and Fourth armies were to defeat German forces between Thionville and Bastogne, as they attacked westwards towards Montmédy and Sedan. The Fifth Army was to intercept German forces advancing towards Givet and then the Fourth Army was to swing north and attack the southern flank of the German armies. The Third and Fourth armies would defeat decisively the main German armies in the west and for this, two more corps were added to the four in the Fourth Army, taken from the flanking armies. [17]


Forspil

Franske defensive forberedelser

Maubeuge-garnisonen havde haft så travlt med forsvaret, at mændene i august 1914 var udmattede, og territorierne havde ikke haft tid til at modtage opfriskningstræning, på trods af at de kun lige havde modtaget St. Étienne Mle maskingeværer fra 1907 . Fournier planlagde at kæmpe i det fri såvel som under dækning, da befæstningerne ville blive bombarderet. Tropper skulle kæmpe i det fri for at flytte maskingeværer til truede punkter, men reservisterne måtte stole på rekvirerede civile køretøjer. Den mobile reserve (General VinckelMeyer) bestod af balancen mellem de aktive og reservetropper fra det 145., 345. og 31. koloniregiment, de to eskadrer fra det 6. Chasseur-regiment og de fire monterede 75 mm-batterier.

Fra midten af ​​august blev Maubeuge-forsvaret opdelt i fem sektorer 1. sektor (General Peyrecave) vest for Mons jernbane til Sambre med fire territoriale bataljoner og en bataljon fra det 32. koloniregiment i reserve ved Douzies. Den 2. sektor (oberst Guérardel) i det sydvestlige område fra Sambre til Solre blev holdt af fem og et halvt territoriale bataljoner med en bataljon af det 3. koloniale regiment ved Ferriéres la Grande i reserve. Den 3. sektor (oberst de La Motte) fra Solre til Ouvrage du Feignies blev forsvaret af fem og et halvt territoriale bataljoner og en toldbataljon. Den 4. sektor (General Ville) fra ouvrage du Feignies til Héronfontaine blev garnisoneret af fem territoriale bataljoner og en bataljon af toldofficerer. Den 5. sektor (oberst Callan) fra Héronfontaine til Mons jernbane blev forsvaret af en territorial bataljon og en Compagnie de Marche fra det 145. infanteriregiment depot, der også leverede en Battaillon de Marche til garnison Maubeuge.

Maubeuge

Den 7. august 1914 advarede Fournier krigsminister Adolphe Messimy om den beklagelige tilstand af Maubeuge-forsvaret og blev fyret dagen efter før general Paul Pau fra Grand Quartier Général sammen med general George Desaleux og en ingeniør oberst , havde været i stand til at rapportere om situationen. Pau retfærdiggjorde Fournier, som blev genindsat, men civilernes og garnisonens tillid blev påvirket. Efter at have nydt et handelsboom skabt ved ankomsten af ​​hærreservister, faldt civils moral i Maubeuge yderligere, da de hørte om tyske grusomheder fra belgiske flygtninge. Den 15. august blev der hørt skud fra Meuse- dalen mod øst, og den aften blev nyheden om slaget ved Dinant (15.-24. August) efterfulgt af rapporter om et modangreb fra det franske 1. hærskorps . Den 12. august havde feltmarskal Lord Kitchener forudsagt en tysk offensiv gennem Belgien, men sendt den britiske ekspeditionsstyrke (BEF) til Maubeuge som planlagt. BEF landede i Frankrig fra 14. til 17. august og samlet fra Maubeuge til Le Cateau den 20. august.

Dawn brød tåget den 21. august, og ingen luftrekognoscering var mulig før om eftermiddagen. BEF begyndte at bevæge sig nordpå fra Maubeuge mod Mons , på trods af rapporter fra flybesætningen om, at en søjle af tyske tropper "strakte sig gennem Louvain så langt øjet kunne se". På Maubeuge ankom nyheden om faldet for det meste af den befæstede position i Namur i Belgien, og plakater på bymuren, der bestilte forberedelser til en belejring, begyndte en udvandring af 25.000 civile. Britiske fly ankom den 22. august, og passagen af ​​et skotsk regiment hævede kortvarig den civile moral, kun for at blive overvældet af rapporter om, at tyske tropper havde krydset Sambre ved Charleroi. Fra 17. august kom Maubeuge under kommando af general Charles Lanrezac, øverstbefalende for den femte hær, og i slaget ved Charleroi (21. - 23. august) blev den femte hær og BEF besejret og tvunget til at trække sig tilbage. Ministerinstruktionerne fra 1910 havde forestillet sig, at Maubeuge kunne stå en kort belejring, mens de dækkede koncentrationen af ​​felthærene, ikke ubestemt isolering efter et tilbagetog fra felthærene. Lanrezac overvejede at tilføje de regelmæssige og reserve-regimenter til den femte hær, men afviste ideen. Maubeuge garnisonen skar jernbanelinjerne, og ingeniørafdelinger sprængte jernbanebroerne ved Jeumont , Berliaumont og Fourmies mod den belgiske grænse.

Tyske forberedelser

At BEF kunne samles i Maubeuge var kendt af tyskerne, men en koncentration i kanalhavne blev anset for mulig. Den 21. august beordrede general Karl von Bülow 1. hær (general Alexander von Kluck ) til at svinge sydpå mod Maubeuge. Den 24. august rykkede VII Corps , på højre flanke af 2. hær frem, indtil 13. division blev stoppet af ild fra Maubeuge-garnisonen. Den 25. august blev korpset beordret til at isolere byens sydøstlige kant med den 13. division og gå videre mod BEFs højre flanke syd for Maubeuge mod Aulnoye med resten af ​​korpset. Tysk luftrekognoscering afslørede begyndelsen på et fransk generelt tilbagetog mod Verdun , Mézières og Maubeuge. Den 14. division af VII Reserve Corps blev beordret sydpå til Binche for at slutte sig til IX og VII Corps for at omgive Maubeuge og BEF sent på eftermiddagen blev det konstateret, at BEF var undsluppet. Bulow gjorde general Karl von Einem ansvarlig for investeringen i Maubeuge, med VII Corps (minus 14. Division), VII Reserve Corps (minus 13. Reserve Division ), IX Corps og artilleri- og belejringsenheder frigivet ved afslutningen af belejringen af Namur .

Den tyske 2. hær gik forbi Maubeuge mod øst, og den forankrede lejr blev omgivet den 26. august. Den 27. august blev general Hans von Zwehl (VII Reserve Corps) beordret til at gennemføre belejringen med 17. division af IX Corps den 13. reservedivision blev omdirigeret til Maubeuge, og VII Corps blev beordret sydpå, mindre en brigade. Zwehl planlagde at angribe fæstningen fra nordøst med et sekundært angreb syd for Sambre. Tre sektorer blev etableret, en fra Trouille-strømmen til Sambre under Maubeuge, den anden fra Sambre til Solre-bæk og den tredje sektor fra Solre til Sambre nord for befæstningerne. Et kavaleriregiment skulle dække hullet mod vest og nord. De 21 tunge østrigske 305 mm haubits og supertunge tyske 420 mm Gamma Mörser- batterier fra Namur skulle indsættes mellem Givry og Solre. Den 2. september havde den 27. reserveinfanteribrigade overtaget den første sektor, den 26. infanteribrigade holdt den sydlige sektor, og elementer fra den 13. reservedivision afholdt en ny fjerde sektor mod vest omkring Bavay .


The Siege of Maubeuge (25 August to 8 September 1914)

Since the construction of its citadel by the architect Vauban in the 17th century, the town of Maubeuge had played an important role in the defence of France's northern frontiers. After the Franco-German War of 1870-71, the general and military engineer Raymond Alphonse Seré de Rivières made it a key element in the line of fortifications which he established from Switzerland to Dunkirk in readiness for any attack that should come from the German Empire, building six forts and six intermediate works a few kilometres from the town.

In the Schlieffen Plan, Maubeuge was not only a strategic objective for the German Army but also a danger. On the one hand it was at the intersection of the Brussels and Liège railways which ran straight to Paris but on the other, it was a fortified town manned by 47,000 French soldiers and thus a threat to the flank of the 1st Army led by General Alexander von Kluck. Because of this, the Germans decided to invest the town in what was to be the longest siege of World War I.

With the exception of Le Bourdiau Fort, which was concrete, all the surrounding forts were built from brick and thus vulnerable to high explosive shells. To make matters worse, their outdated artillery's range of a mere eight kilometres was wholly inadequate to compete with the German guns which could send a shell almost twice as far (14 km). To make up for the small number of troops at his disposal, General Fournier, the commander of Maubeuge, had barbed wire entanglements laid the length of the thirty-six kilometres he had to defend.

On 25 August 1914, Maubeuge was besieged by 60,000 German soldiers. Four days later they started shelling Boussois Fort with 305 mm and 420 mm guns and within three hours it lay in ruins. The French attempted a sortie on 1 September but their infantry was stopped in its tracks, 923 men losing their lives. The town lost contact with the other French garrisons except for a lone pigeon which, on 4 September brought news of the forts of Les Sarts, Boussois and Cerfontaine: they were besieged by the enemy. Next, the arsenal exploded and then the German infantry attacked on 6 September, taking Boussois Fort. The French abandoned Les Sarts Fort and at the end of the morning Cerfontaine Fort came under attack. The town was burning. General Fournier was quite clear as to his situation, " The enemy's artillery continues to crush our infantry with bursts of large-calibre projectiles. It is surprising that such an unequal conflict should have lasted so long. Our losses are enormous (at least a quarter of our soldiers). The enemy is currently in the suburb of Le Pont-Allant, at the centre our troops are reduced to a leaderless rabble in the suburb of Mons. They are no longer capable of resisting ". However Fournier was determined that town should hold out to the last. On the morning of 7 September, Fort Leveau came under heavy shelling and by midday a white flag was flying from the church. The surrender was made official the following day.

The Siege of Maubeuge lasted fifteen days, suffering shelling on all but four of those days. A total of 45,000 French soldiers were taken prisoner and 450 guns and 80,000 shells fell into German hands. However the siege served some good to the cause of the French because it held back part of the German Army advancing on Paris, ensuring that 60,000 fewer German soldiers took to the field in the Battle of the Marne which erupted on 5 September.


Contents

Battle of the Frontiers Edit

The Battle of the Frontiers is a general name for all the operations of the French armies from 7 August to 13 September. [2] A series of encounter battles began between the German, French and Belgian armies on the German-French frontier and in southern Belgium on 4 August. Liège was occupied by the Germans on 7 August. The first units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) landed in France and French troops crossed the German frontier. The Battle of Mulhouse (Battle of Alsace 7–10 August ) was the first French offensive of World War I. The French captured Mulhouse, until forced out by a German counter-attack on 11 August, and fell back toward Belfort. On 12 August, the Battle of Haelen was fought by German and Belgian cavalry and infantry, resulting in a Belgian defensive success. The BEF completed its move of four divisions and a cavalry division to France on 16 August, as the last Belgian fort of the Fortified Position of Liège (Position fortifiée de Liège) surrendered. The Belgian government withdrew from Brussels on 18 August.

The main French offensive, the Battle of Lorraine (14–25 August) , began with the Battles of Morhange and Sarrebourg ( 14–20 August ) advances by the First Army on Sarrebourg and the Second Army towards Morhange. Château-Salins near Morhange was captured on 17 August and Sarrebourg the next day. The German 6th and 7th Armies counter-attacked on 20 August, and the Second Army was forced back from Morhange and the First Army was repulsed at Sarrebourg. The German armies crossed the border and advanced on Nancy, but were stopped to the east of the city. [3] The Belgian 4th Division, the solitary part of the Belgian army not to retreat to the defensive lines around Antwerp, dug in to defend Namur, which was besieged on 20 August. Further west, the French Fifth Army had concentrated on the Sambre by 20 August, facing north on either side of Charleroi and east towards Namur and Dinant. Additional support was given to the Belgians at Namur by the French 45th Infantry Brigade. On the left, the Cavalry Corps of General Sordet linked up with the BEF at Mons. [3]

To the south, the French retook Mulhouse on 19 August and then withdrew. By 20 August, a German counter-offensive in Lorraine had begun and the German 4th and 5th Armies advanced through the Ardennes on 19 August towards Neufchâteau. An offensive by the French Third and Fourth Armies through the Ardennes began on 20 August in support of the French invasion of Lorraine. The opposing armies met in thick fog the French mistook the German troops for screening forces. On 22 August, the Battle of the Ardennes (21–28 August) began with French attacks, which were costly to both sides and forced the French into a disorderly retreat late on 23 August. The Third Army recoiled towards Verdun, pursued by the 5th Army, and the Fourth Army retreated to Sedan and Stenay. Mulhouse was recaptured again by German forces and the Battle of the Meuse (26–28 August), caused a temporary halt of the German advance. [4]

The Great Retreat Edit

The Great Retreat took place from 24 August to 5 September the French Fifth Army fell back about 15 kilometres (10 mi) from the Sambre during the Battle of Charleroi (22 August) and began a greater withdrawal from the area south of the Sambre on 23 August. That evening, the 12,000 Belgian troops at Namur withdrew into French-held territory and at Dinant, 674 men, women and children were summarily executed by Saxon troops of the German 3rd Army the first of several civilian massacres committed by the Germans in 1914. [5]

At the Battle of Mons (23 August), the BEF attempted to hold the line of the Mons–Condé Canal against the advancing German 1st Army. The British were eventually forced to withdraw due to being outnumbered by the Germans and the sudden retreat of the French Fifth Army, which exposed the British right flank. Though planned as a simple tactical withdrawal and executed in good order, the British retreat from Mons lasted for two weeks and covered 400 kilometres (250 mi). During the retreat, BEF commander Sir John French began to make contingency plans for a full retreat to the ports on the English Channel followed by an immediate British evacuation. On 1 September Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, met with French (and French Prime Minister Viviani and War Minister Millerand), and ordered him not to withdraw to the Channel. The BEF retreated to the outskirts of Paris, before it counter-attacked in concert with the French, in the Battle of the Marne. [6]

The French First and Second Armies had been pushed back, by attacks of the German 7th and 6th Armies between St. Dié and Nancy. The Third Army held positions east of Verdun against attacks by the German 5th Army the Fourth Army held positions from the junction with the Third Army south of Montmédy, westwards to Sedan, Mezières, and Fumay, facing the German 4th Army the Fifth Army was between Fumay and Maubeuge the Third Army was advancing up the Meuse valley from Dinant and Givet, into a gap between the Fourth and Fifth Armies and the Second Army pressed forward into the angle between the Meuse and Sambre, directly against the Fifth Army. On the far west flank of the French, the BEF prolonged the line from Maubeuge to Valenciennes against the German 1st Army and Army Detachment von Beseler masked the Belgian army at Antwerp. [6]

On 26 August, German forces captured Valenciennes and began the Siege of Maubeuge (24 August – 7 September). Leuven, (Louvain) was sacked by German troops and the Battle of Le Cateau was fought by the BEF and the First Army. Longwy was surrendered by its garrison and next day, British marines and a party of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) landed at Ostend German troops occupied Lille and Mezières. Arras was occupied on 27 August and a French counter-offensive began at the Battle of St. Quentin (Battle of Guise 29–30 August). On 29 August, the Fifth Army counter-attacked the German 2nd Army south of the Oise, from Vervins to Mont-d'Origny and west of the river from Mont-d'Origny to Moy towards St. Quentin on the Somme, while the British held the line of the Oise west of La Fère. [7] German troops captured Laon, La Fère, and Roye on 30 August and Amiens the next day. On 1 September, the Germans entered Craonne and Soissons. On 5 September German troops reached Claye-Souilly, 15 kilometres (10 mi) from Paris, captured Reims, and withdrew from Lille, and the BEF ended its retreat from Mons. Also on that day, French troops counterattacked in the Battle of the Ourcq 5–12 September , marking the end of the Great Retreat of the western flank of the Franco-British armies. [8]

In the east, the Second Army had withdrawn its left flank, to face north between Nancy and Toul the First and Second Armies had slowed the advance of the German 7th and 6th Armies west of St. Dié and east of Nancy by 4 September. There was a gap between the left of the Second Army and the right of the Third Army at Verdun, which faced north-west, on a line towards Revigny, against the Fifth Army advance west of the Meuse between Varennes and Sainte-Menehould. The Fourth Army had withdrawn to Sermaize, westwards to the Marne at Vitry-le-François and crossed the river to Sompons, against the German 4th Army, which had advanced from Rethel to Suippes and the west of Châlons. The new French Ninth Army held a line from Mailly against the German 3rd Army, which had advanced from Mézières, over the Vesle and the Marne west of Chalons. The Second Army had advanced from Marle on the Serre, across the Aisne and the Vesle, between Reims and Fismes to Montmort, north of the junction of the French 9th and 5th Armies at Sézanne.

The Fifth Army and the BEF had withdrawn south of the Oise, Serre, Aisne, and Ourq, pursued by the German 2nd Army on a line from Guise to Laon, Vailly, and Dormans and by the 1st Army from Montdidier, towards Compiègne and then south-east towards Montmirail.

French garrisons were besieged at Metz, Thionville, Longwy, Montmédy, and Maubeuge. The Belgian army was invested at Antwerp in the National Redoubt and Belgian fortress troops continued the defence of the Liège forts. [9] The Military governor of Paris, General Joseph Gallieni, was tasked with the defence of the city.

Plans Edit

In the first days of September, the final decisions were made that were to directly create the circumstances for the Battle of the Marne. On 2 September Moltke issued a Grand Directive changing the order of battle for the German attack. Moltke ordered that Paris would now be bypassed and the sweep intended to encircle the city would now seek to entrap the French forces between Paris and Verdun. [10] To accomplish this, the 2nd Army would become the primary striking force with the 1st Army (Alexander von Kluck) following in echelon to protect the flank. [11] At the time of this Grand Directive, Moltke based his decision on an intercepted radio transmission from the 2nd Army to the 1st Army describing the Entente retreating across the Marne. On the eve of this most important battle, Moltke had requested situation reports from the 1st Army on 1 September but received none. [10] Both armies on the western flank had been depleted by the march and August battles. Moltke chose to reinforce the opposite wing that was attacking fortifications in the region near Verdun and Nancy.

Kluck, whose army on the western flank had formerly been the force that would deliver the decisive blow, disregarded these orders. Together with his Chief of Staff General Kuhl, Kluck ordered his armies to continue south-east rather than turning to the west to face possible reinforcements that could endanger the German flank. They would seek to remain the wing of the German attack and to find and destroy the French Fifth Army's flank. [12] After setting this order in action on 2 September, Kluck did not transmit word to Moltke and OHL until the morning of 4 September, which Moltke ignored. [12] Though in keeping with the pre-war tradition of decentralised command (Auftragstaktik), Kluck disregarded the threat from the west. On 31 August, 1 September and 3 September, German aviators reported columns of French troops west of the 1st Army. These reports were dismissed and not passed to the IV Reserve Corps.

Joffre sacked General Charles Lanrezac, the commander of the Fifth Army and replaced him with I Corps commander Louis Franchet d'Espèrey. [13] D'Esperey became one of the originators of the Entente plan during the Battle of the Marne. [14] On 4 September, while meeting with the British General Henry Wilson, d'Esperey outlined a French and British counter-attack on the German 1st Army. [15] The counter-attack would come from the south by d'Esperey's Fifth Army, the west from the BEF and at the Ourq River from Gallieni's new Sixth Army. [16] Gallieni had come to the same conclusion on 3 September and had started marching the Sixth Army east. [17]

Joffre spent much of this afternoon in silent contemplation under an ash tree. [18] At dinner that night he received word of d’Esperey's plan for the counter-attack. That night he issued commands to halt the French retreat in his Instruction General No. 5, to start on 6 September. The BEF was under no obligation to follow orders of the French. Joffre first attempted to use diplomatic channels to convince the British government to apply pressure on French. Later in the day, he arrived at the BEF HQ for discussions which ended with Joffre banging his hand dramatically on a table while shouting "Monsieur le Marechal, the honour of England is at stake!" Following this meeting, French agreed to the operational plan to commence the following day. [19]

Western flank Edit

Late on 4 September, Joffre ordered the Sixth Army to attack eastwards over the Ourcq towards Château Thierry as the BEF advanced towards Montmirail, and the Fifth Army attacked northwards with its right flank protected by the Ninth Army along the St. Gond marshes. On 5 September, the Battle of the Ourcq commenced when the Sixth Army advanced eastwards from Paris. That morning it came into contact with cavalry patrols of the IV Reserve Corps of General Hans von Gronau, on the right flank of the 1st Army west of the Ourcq River. Seizing the initiative in the early afternoon, the two divisions of IV Reserve Corps attacked with field artillery and infantry into the gathering Sixth Army and pushed it back. Overnight, the IV Reserve Corps withdrew to a better position 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) east, while von Kluck, alerted to the approach of the Allied forces, began to wheel his army to face west.

Gronau ordered the II Corps to move back to the north bank of the Marne, which began a redeployment of all four 1st Army corps to the north bank which continued until 8 September. The swift move to the north bank prevented the Sixth Army from crossing the Ourcq. In this move against the French threat from the west, von Kluck ignored the Franco-British forces advancing from the south against his left flank and opened a 50-kilometre (30 mi) gap in the German lines between the 1st Army and the 2nd Army on its left (east). Allied air reconnaissance observed German forces moving north to face the Sixth Army and discovered the gap. [20] The lack of coordination between von Kluck and Bülow caused the gap to widen further. On the night of September 7, Bülow ordered two of his corps to withdraw to favorable positions just hours before von Kluck ordered these same two corps to march to reinforce 1st Army on the Ourcq River. [21] At exactly the same time, von Kluck and his influential staff officer Hermann von Kuhl had decided to break the French Sixth Army on the 1st Army's right flank while Bülow shifted an attack to the 2nd Army's left wing, the opposite side from where the gap had opened. [22]

The Allies were prompt in exploiting the break in the German lines, sending the BEF and the Fifth Army into the gap between the two German armies. The right wing of the Fifth Army attacked on 6 September and pinned the 2nd Army in the Battle of the Two Morins, named for the two rivers in the area, the Grand Morin and Petit Morin. The BEF advanced on 6–8 September , crossed the Petit Morin, captured bridges over the Marne, and established a bridgehead 8 kilometres (5 mi) deep. The slow pace of the BEF's advance enraged d'Esperey and other French commanders. On 6 September Haig's forces moved so slowly they finished the day 12 km behind their objectives and lost only seven men. [23] The BEF, though outnumbering Germans in the gap ten to one, advanced only forty kilometers in three days. [24] The Fifth Army by 8 September crossed the Petit Morin, which forced Bülow to withdraw the right flank of the 2nd Army. The next day, the Fifth Army recrossed the Marne, and the German 1st and 2nd Armies began to retire. [25] The Germans had still hoped to smash the Sixth Army between 6 and 8 September, but the Sixth Army was reinforced on the night of 7/8 September by 10,000 French reserve infantry ferried from Paris. This included about 3,000 men from the Seventh Division who were transported in a fleet of Paris taxicabs requisitioned by General Gallieni. During the critical period of 6 to 7 September von Moltke issued no orders to either von Kluck or Bülow, and received no reports from them between 7 and 9 September. [22]

On 6 September, General Gallieni gathered about six hundred taxicabs at Les Invalides in central Paris to carry soldiers to the front at Nanteuil-le-Haudouin, fifty kilometres away. In the night of 6-7, two groups set off: the first, comprising 350 vehicles, departed at 10 PM, and another of 250 an hour later. [26] Each taxi carried five soldiers, four in the back and one next to the driver. Only the back lights of the taxis were lit the drivers were instructed to follow the lights of the taxi ahead. Most of the taxis were demobilised on 8 September but some remained longer to carry the wounded and refugees. The taxis, following city regulations, dutifully ran their meters. The French treasury reimbursed the total fare of 70,012 francs. [27] [28] [29]

The arrival of six thousand soldiers by taxi has traditionally been described as critical in stopping a possible German breakthrough against the 6th Army. However, in General Gallieni's memoirs, he notes how some had "exaggerated somewhat the importance of the taxis." [30] In 2001, Strachan described the course of the battle without mentioning taxis and in 2009, Herwig called the matter a legend: he wrote that many French soldiers travelled in lorries and all the artillery left Paris by train. [31] [32] The impact on morale was undeniable, the taxis de la Marne were perceived as a manifestation of the union sacrée of the French civilian population and its soldiers at the front, reminiscent of the people in arms who had saved the French Republic Campaign of 1794: a symbol of unity and national solidarity beyond their strategical role in the battle. It was also the first large-scale use of motorised infantry in battle a Marne taxicab is prominently displayed in the exhibit on the battle at the Musée de l'Armée at Les Invalides in Paris.

The reinforced Sixth Army held its ground. The following night, on 8 September, the Fifth Army launched a surprise attack against the 2nd Army, further widening the gap between the 1st and 2nd Armies. Moltke, at OHL in Luxembourg, was effectively out of communication with the German army HQs. He sent his intelligence officer, Oberstleutnant Richard Hentsch to visit the HQs. On 8 September, Hentsch met with Bülow, and they agreed that the 2nd Army was in danger of encirclement and would retreat immediately. On 9 September, Hentsch reached the 1st Army's HQ, met with von Kluck's chief of staff, and issued orders for the 1st Army to retreat to the Aisne River. [33] von Kluck and von Kuhl vigorously objected to this order as they believed their army was on the verge of breaking the Sixth Army. However, Hentsch reminded them he had the full power of the OHL behind him, and that 2nd Army was already in retreat. Von Kluck reluctantly ordered his troops to pull back. [34]

Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown upon hearing of the danger. His subordinates took over and ordered a general retreat to the Aisne, to regroup for another offensive. The Germans were pursued by the French and British, although the pace of the exhausted Allied forces was slow and averaged only 19 km (12 mi) per day. The Germans ceased their retreat after 65 km (40 mi), at a point north of the Aisne River, where they dug in, preparing trenches. By 10 September the German armies west of Verdun were retreating towards the Aisne. Joffre ordered Allied troops to pursue, leading to the First Battle of the Aisne (see below).

The German retreat from 9–13 September marked the end of the Schlieffen Plan. Moltke is said to have reported to the Kaiser: "Your Majesty, we have lost the war." (Majestät, wir haben den Krieg verloren). [35]

Whether General von Moltke actually said to the Emperor, "Majesty, we have lost the war," we do not know. We know anyhow that with a prescience greater in political than in military affairs, he wrote to his wife on the night of the 9th, "Things have not gone well. The fighting east of Paris has not gone in our favour, and we shall have to pay for the damage we have done". [36]

Eastern flank Edit

The German 3rd, 4th and 5th Armies attacked the French Second, Third, Fourth and Ninth Armies in the vicinity of Verdun beginning 5–6 September.

German attacks against the Second Army south of Verdun from 5 September almost forced the French to retreat. South-east of Verdun, the Third Army was forced back to the west of Verdun by German attacks on the Meuse Heights, but maintained contact with Verdun and the Fourth Army to the west.

Other fighting included the capture of the village of Revigny in the Battle of Revigny (Bataille de Revigny), the Battle of Vitry (Bataille de Vitry) around Vitry-le-François, and the Battle of the Marshes of Saint-Gond around Sézanne. [37] On 7 September German advances created a salient south of Verdun at St. Mihiel, which threatened to separate the Second and Third Armies. [38] General Castelnau prepared to abandon the French position around Nancy, but his staff contacted Joffre, who ordered Castelnau to hold for another 24 hours. [39]

German attacks continued through 8 September but soon began to taper off as Moltke began shifting troops to the west. By 10 September the Germans had received orders to stop attacking and withdrawal towards the frontier became general. [40]

Analysis Edit

At the start of the war, both sides had plans that they counted on to deliver a short war. [41] The Battle of the Marne was the second great battle on the Western Front, after the Battle of the Frontiers, and one of the most important events of the war. While the German invasion failed decisively to defeat the Entente in France, the German army occupied a good portion of northern France as well as most of Belgium and it was the failure of the French Plan 17 that caused that situation. [42] It is generally agreed among historians that the battle was an Allied victory that saved Paris and kept France in the war but there is considerable disagreement as to the extent of the victory. [ citation needed ]

Joffre, whose planning had led to the disastrous Battle of the Frontiers, was able to bring the Entente to a tactical victory. He used interior lines to move troops from his right wing to the critical left wing and sacked generals. Due to the redistribution of French troops, the German 1st Army had 128 battalions facing 191 battalions of the French and BEF. The 2nd and 3rd German armies had 134 battalions facing 268 battalions of the French Fifth and new Ninth Army. [43] It was his orders that prevented Castelnau from abandoning Nancy on 6 September or reinforcing that army when the pivotal battle was unfolding on the other side of the battlefield. [44] He resisted counter-attacking until the time was right then put his full force behind it. D'Esperey should also receive credit as the author of the main stroke. As Joffre says in his memoirs: "it was he who made the Battle of the Marne possible". [45]

After the Battle of the Marne, the Germans retreated for up to 90 kilometres (56 mi) and lost 11,717 prisoners, 30 field guns and 100 machine-guns to the French and 3,500 prisoners to the British before reaching the Aisne. [46] The German retreat ended their hope of pushing the French beyond the Verdun–Marne–Paris line and winning a quick victory. Following the battle and the failures by both sides to turn the opponent's northern flank during the Race to the Sea, the war of movement ended with the Germans and the Allied Powers facing each other across a stationary front line. Both sides were faced with the prospect of costly siege warfare operations if they chose to continue an offensive strategy in France.

Historians' interpretations characterise the Allied advance as a success. [47] John Terraine wrote that "nowhere, and at no time, did it present the traditional aspect of victory", but nonetheless stated that the French and British stroke into the breach between the 1st and 2nd German Armies "made the battle of the Marne the decisive battle of the war". [48] Barbara W. Tuchman and Robert Doughty wrote that Joffre's victory at the Marne was far from decisive, Tuchman calling it an "…incomplete victory of the Marne…" and Doughty [the] "…opportunity for a decisive victory had slipped from his hands". [49] [50] Ian Sumner called it a flawed victory and that it proved impossible to deal the German armies "a decisive blow". [51] Tuchman wrote that Kluck explained the German failure at the Marne as

…the reason that transcends all others was the extraordinary and peculiar aptitude of the French soldier to recover quickly. […] That men will let themselves be killed where they stand, that is well-known and counted on in every plan of battle. But that men who have retreated for ten days, sleeping on the ground and half dead with fatigue, should be able to take up their rifles and attack when the bugle sounds, is a thing upon which we never counted. It was a possibility not studied in our war academy. [52]

Richard Brooks in 2000, wrote that the significance of the battle centres on its undermining of the Schlieffen Plan, which forced Germany to fight a two-front war against France and Russia—the scenario that its strategists had long feared. Brooks claimed that, "By frustrating the Schlieffen Plan, Joffre had won the decisive battle of the war, and perhaps of the century". [53] The Battle of the Marne was also one of the first battles in which reconnaissance aircraft played a decisive role, by discovering weak points in the German lines, which the Entente armies were able to exploit. [54]

Casualties Edit

Over two million men fought in the First Battle of the Marne and although there are no exact official casualty counts for the battle, estimates for the actions of September along the Marne front for all armies are often given as c. 500 000 killed or wounded. [42] French casualties totalled 250 000 men, of whom 80 000 were killed. Some notable people died in the battle, such as Charles Péguy, who was killed while leading his platoon during an attack at the beginning of the battle. Tuchman gave French casualties for August as 206 515 from Armées Françaises and Herwig gave French casualties for September as 213 445, also from Armées Françaises for a total of just under 420 000 in the first two months of the war. [42] According to Roger Chickering, German casualties for the 1914 campaigns on the Western Front were 500 000. [55] British casualties were 13 000 men, with 1 700 killed. The Germans suffered c. 250 000 casualties. No future battle on the Western Front would average so many casualties per day. [56]

In 2009, Herwig re-estimated the casualties for the battle. He wrote that the French official history, Les armées françaises dans la grande guerre, gave 213 445 French casualties in September and assumed that c. 40 % occurred during the Battle of the Marne. Using the German Sanitätsberichte, Herwig recorded that from 1–10 September, the 1st Army had 13 254 casualties, the 2nd Army had 10 607 casualties, the 3rd Army had 14 987 casualties, the 4th Army had 9 433 casualties, the 5th Army had 19 434 casualties, the 6th Army had 21 200 casualties and the 7th Army had 10 164 casualties. Herwig estimated that the five German Armies from Verdun to Paris had 67 700 casualties during the battle and assumed 85 000 casualties for the French. Herwig wrote that there were 1 701 British casualties (the British Official History noted that these losses were incurred from 6–10 September) . [57] Herwig estimated 300,000 casualties for all sides at the Marne but questioned whether isolating the battle was justified. [58] In 2010, Ian Sumner wrote that there were 12 733 British casualties, including 1 700 dead. [59] Sumner cites the same overall casualty figure for the French for September as Herwig from Armées Françaises, which includes the losses at the battle of the Aisne, as 213 445 but provides a further breakdown: 18 073 killed, 111 963 wounded and 83 409 missing. [60]

Subsequent operations Edit

First Battle of the Aisne, 13–28 September Edit

On 10 September, Joffre ordered the French armies and the BEF to advance and for four days, the Armies on the left flank moved forward and gathered up German stragglers, wounded and equipment, opposed only by rearguards. On 11 and 12 September, Joffre ordered outflanking manoeuvres by the armies on the left flank but the advance was too slow to catch the Germans, who ended their withdrawal on 14 September, on high ground on the north bank of the Aisne and began to dig in. Frontal attacks by the Ninth, Fifth, and Sixth Armies were repulsed from 15–16 September. This led Joffre to transfer the Second Army west to the left flank of the Sixth Army, the first phase of Allied attempts to outflank the German armies in "The Race to the Sea". [61]

French troops had begun to move westwards on 2 September, using the undamaged railways behind the French front, which were able to move a corps to the left flank in 5–6 days. On 17 September, the French Sixth Army attacked from Soissons to Noyon, at the westernmost point of the French flank, with the XIII and IV corps, which were supported by the 61st and 62nd divisions of the 6th Group of Reserve Divisions. After this, the fighting moved north to Lassigny and the French dug in around Nampcel. [62]

The French Second Army completed a move from Lorraine and took over command of the left-hand corps of the Sixth Army, as indications appeared that German troops were also being moved from the eastern flank. [63] The German IX Reserve Corps arrived from Belgium by 15 September and the next day joined the 1st Army for an attack to the south-west, with the IV Corps and the 4th and 7th cavalry divisions, against the attempted French envelopment. The attack was cancelled and the IX Reserve Corps was ordered to withdraw behind the right flank of the 1st Army. The 2nd and 9th Cavalry divisions were dispatched as reinforcements the next day but before the retirement began, the French attack reached Carlepont and Noyon, before being contained on 18 September. The German armies attacked from Verdun westwards to Reims and the Aisne at the Battle of Flirey (19 September – 11 October), cut the main railway from Verdun to Paris and created the St. Mihiel salient, south of the Verdun fortress zone. The main German effort remained on the western flank, which was revealed to the French by intercepted wireless messages. [64] By 28 September, the Aisne front had stabilised and the BEF began to withdraw on the night of 1/2 October, with the first troops arriving in the Abbeville on the Somme on the night of 8/9 October. The BEF prepared to commence operations in French Flanders and Flanders in Belgium, joining with the British forces that had been in Belgium since August. [65]

Race to the Sea Edit

From 17 September – 17 October the belligerents made reciprocal attempts to turn the northern flank of their opponent. Joffre ordered the French Second Army to move to the north of the French Sixth Army, by moving from eastern France from 2–9 September and Falkenhayn who had replaced Moltke on 14 September, ordered the German 6th Army to move from the German-French border to the northern flank on 17 September. By the next day, French attacks north of the Aisne led Falkenhayn to order the 6th Army to repulse the French and secure the flank. [66] The French advance at the First Battle of Picardy (22–26 September) met a German attack rather than an open flank and by the end of the Battle of Albert (25–29 September), the Second Army had been reinforced to eight Corps but was still opposed by German forces at the Battle of Arras (1–4 October), rather than advancing around the German northern flank. The German 6th Army had also found that on arrival in the north, it was forced to oppose the French attack rather than advance around the flank and that the secondary objective, to protect the northern flank of the German Armies in France, had become the main task. By 6 October, the French needed British reinforcements to withstand German attacks around Lille. The BEF had begun to move from the Aisne to Flanders on 5 October and reinforcements from England assembled on the left flank of the Tenth Army, which had been formed from the left flank units of the 2nd Army on 4 October. [67]

The Allied Powers and the Germans attempted to take more ground after the "open" northern flank had disappeared. The Franco-British attacks towards Lille in October at the battles of La Bassée, Messines and Armentières (October–November) were followed up by attempts to advance between the BEF and the Belgian army by a new French Eighth Army. The moves of the 7th and then the 6th Army from Alsace and Lorraine had been intended to secure German lines of communication through Belgium, where the Belgian army had sortied several times, during the period between the Great Retreat and the Battle of the Marne in August, British marines had landed at Dunkirk. [68] In October, a new 4th Army was assembled from the III Reserve Corps, the siege artillery used against Antwerp, and four of the new reserve corps training in Germany. A German offensive began by 21 October but the 4th and 6th Armies were only able to take small amounts of ground, at great cost to both sides at the Battle of the Yser (16–31 October) and further south in the First Battle of Ypres ( 19 October – 22 November ). Falkenhayn then attempted to achieve a limited goal of capturing Ypres and Mont Kemmel. [69]


Contents

Maubeuge (ancient Malbodium, from Latin, derived from the Old Frankish name Malboden, meaning "assizes of Boden") owes its origin to Maubeuge Abbey, a double monastery, for men and women, founded in the 7th century by Saint Aldego, the relics of whom are preserved in the church. It subsequently belonged to the territory of Hainaut. It was burnt by Louis XI of France, by Francis I of France, and by Henry II of France, and was finally assigned to France by the Treaty of Nijmegen.

It was fortified by Vauban by the command of Louis XIV of France, who under Turenne first saw military service there.

Besieged in 1793 by Prince Josias of Coburg, it was relieved by the victory of Wattignies, which is commemorated by a monument in the town. It was unsuccessfully besieged in 1814, but was compelled to capitulate, after a vigorous resistance, in the Hundred Days.

As a fortress Maubeuge has an old enceinte of bastion trace which serves as the center of an important entrenched camp of 18 miles perimeter, constructed for the most part after the War of 1870, but since modernized and augmented.

The forts were besieged in World War I by the German Empire. Maubeuge suffered heavily in World War II: 90% of the town centre was destroyed by bombardments in May 1940. Fighting again occurred in early September of 1944, in and around the outskirts of Maubeuge, involving units of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division during the American push toward Belgium. [1] [2]

Heraldry


History

Maubeuge (ancient Malbodium, from Latin, derived from the Old Frankish name Malboden, meaning "assizes of Boden") owes its origin to Maubeuge Abbey, a double monastery, for men and women, founded in the 7th century by Saint Aldego, the relics of whom are preserved in the church. It subsequently belonged to the territory of Hainaut.

The town was part of the Spanish Netherlands and changed hands a number of times before it was finally ceded to France in the 1678 Treaty of Nijmegen. As part of Vauban's pré carré plan that protected France's northern borders with a double line of fortresses, it was extensively fortified as directed by Louis XIV of France.

Besieged in 1793 by Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, it was relieved by the victory of Wattignies, which is commemorated by a monument in the town. It was unsuccessfully besieged in 1814, but was compelled to capitulate, after a vigorous resistance, in the Hundred Days.

As a fortress, Maubeuge has an old enceinte of bastion trace which serves as the center of an important entrenched camp of 18 miles perimeter. The fortress was constructed after the War of 1870 but has since been modernized and augmented.

The forts were besieged in World War I by the German Empire. Maubeuge suffered heavily in World War II: 90% of the town centre was destroyed by bombardments in May 1940. Fighting again occurred in early September 1944, in and around the outskirts of Maubeuge, involving units of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division during the American push toward Belgium.

Heraldry


The Battle of Fromelles (19 July 1916)

Fromelles in Northern France was the scene of one of the greatest tragedies suffered by the Australian nation during the 20th century.

Despite the enormous losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, British command considered that the situation in the coming days would be encouraging and that a major German retreat was to be expected. In order to destabilize the German front to a greater extent, the Allies decided on 9 July 1916 to launch an attack on Aubers Ridge in order to take the high ground there and break through to the enemy's rear (it was hoped the operation would not be a repeat of the disaster of May 1915 in the same sector). The area of attack was four kilometres wide and comprised heavily-defended German positions which overlooked the British lines. One such position was the "Sugar Loaf", a concrete bastion bristling with machine guns. The plan called for a heavy bombardment, carried out slowly and methodically, immediately prior to the infantry attack. On 16 July, with the situation deteriorating on the Somme, the prudence of the offensive at Fromelles was momentarily brought into question but determined support for the operation from General Haking, commander of the British XI Corps, eventually tipped the balance.

Two divisions were fielded at Fromelles, the British 61st and the Australian 5th, both recently arrived in France and devoid of any combat experience, and for the Australians it was their first engagement on the Western Front. They were faced with the experienced soldiers of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division who were victorious at Aubers the year before. To make matters worse for the soldiers of the Commonwealth, the preliminary bombardment, which lasted eleven hours, was very badly executed.

Launched at six o'clock in the morning of 19 July 1916, the infantry attack was immediately subjected to intense machine gun fire and shelling in a section of no man's land which was very wide (over 300 metres). The four waves of infantry were mown down one after the other although a few Australian soldiers succeeded in penetrating German lines, they were quickly isolated and subjected to counter-attacks. No man's land filled with the bodies of dead and wounded Australians, some likening the macabre scene to a giant butcher's stall. In spite of the initial failure a second attack was launched at 9 a.m. Totally isolated after a night in the German trenches, the Australian survivors of the first attack attempted to regain their lines on the morning of 20 July but the enemy's machine guns once again accomplished their deadly work.

In a period of twenty-four hours the Australians lost 5,533 men and the British 1,400 with absolutely nothing to show for it. The proportion of those killed was exceptionally high, for example of the 887 men of the Australian 60th Battalion engaged in the battle only 107 survived. It seems that Adolf Hitler, then a corporal in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, also took part in the battle.

Yves Le Maner
Director of La Coupole
History and Remembrance Centre of Northern France


Contents

Belgium Edit

Belgian military planning was based on the assumption that other powers would uphold Belgian neutrality by expelling an invader. The likelihood of a German invasion did not lead the Belgian government to see France and Britain as potential allies nor did it intend to do more than protect its independence. The Anglo-French Entente (1904) had led the Belgians to perceive that the British attitude to Belgium had changed and that they would fight to protect Belgian independence. A General Staff was formed in 1910 but the Chef d'État-Major Général de l'Armée, Lieutenant-Général Harry Jungbluth was retired on 30 June 1912 and not replaced by Lieutenant-General Chevalier de Selliers de Moranville until May 1914. [1]

Moranville began planning for the concentration of the army and met railway officials on 29 July. Belgian troops were to be massed in central Belgium, in front of the National redoubt of Belgium ready to face any border, while the Fortified Position of Liège and Fortified Position of Namur were left to secure the frontiers. On mobilisation, the King became Commander-in-Chief and chose where the army was to concentrate. Amid the disruption of the new rearmament plan, the disorganised and poorly trained Belgian soldiers would benefit from a central position to delay contact with an invader but it would also need fortifications for defence, which were on the frontier. A school of thought wanted a return to a frontier deployment, in line with French theories of the offensive. Belgian plans became a compromise in which the field army concentrated behind the Gete river, with two divisions forward at Liège and Namur. [1]

Aufmarsch II West Edit

German strategy had given priority to offensive operations against France and a defensive posture against Russia since 1891. German planning was determined by numerical inferiority, the speed of mobilisation and concentration and the effect of the vast increase of the power of modern weapons. Frontal attacks were expected to be costly and protracted, leading to limited success, particularly after the French and Russians modernised their fortifications on the frontiers with Germany. Alfred von Schlieffen Chief of the Imperial German General Staff (Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL) from 1891–1906, devised a plan to evade the French frontier fortifications with an offensive on the northern flank with a local numerical superiority. By 1898–1899, such a manoeuvre was intended to rapidly pass through Belgium, between Antwerp and Namur and threaten Paris from the north. [2]

Plan XVII Edit

A German attack from south-eastern Belgium towards Mézières and a possible offensive from Lorraine towards Verdun, Nancy and St. Dié was anticipated the plan was a development of Plan XVI and made more provision for the possibility of a German offensive through Belgium. The First, Second and Third armies were to concentrate between Épinal and Verdun opposite Alsace and Lorraine, the Fifth Army was to assemble from Montmédy to Sedan and Mézières and the Fourth Army was to be held back west of Verdun, ready to move east to attack the southern flank of a German invasion through Belgium or south against the northern flank of an attack through Lorraine. No formal provision was made for combined operations with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) but joint arrangements had been made and during the Second Moroccan Crisis in 1911, the French had been told that six divisions could be expected to operate around Maubeuge. [5]

Declarations of war Edit

At midnight on 31 July – 1 August, the German government sent an ultimatum to Russia and announced a state of "Kriegsgefahr" during the day the Turkish government ordered mobilisation and the London Stock Exchange closed. On 1 August, the British government ordered the mobilisation of the navy, the German government ordered general mobilisation and declared war on Russia. Hostilities commenced on the Polish frontier, the French government ordered general mobilisation and next day the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding passage through Belgian territory and German troops crossed the frontier of Luxembourg. Military operations began on the French frontier, Libau was bombarded by the German light cruiser SMS Augsburg and the British government guaranteed naval protection for French coasts. On 3 August, the Belgian Government refused German demands and the British Government guaranteed military support to Belgium, should Germany invade. Germany declared war on France, the British government ordered general mobilisation and Italy declared neutrality. On 4 August, the British government sent an ultimatum to Germany which expired at midnight on 4–5 August, Central European Time. Belgium severed diplomatic relations with Germany and Germany declared war on Belgium. German troops crossed the Belgian frontier and attacked Liège. [6]

German offensive preparations Edit

The 6th Army deployed in the XXI and XVI corps areas from the Vosges north to Metz, the III Corps arriving from 8–12 August and moving to the border from Beux to Béchy and Rémilly, the II Bavarian Corps deployed from 7–10 August from Lucy to Château Salins and Moerchingen and the XXI Corps mobilised around Dieuze on 10 August and moved a brigade of the 42nd Division to Igney, as a flank guard for the I Bavarian Corps. On 11 August a French night attack was repulsed but events in the Vosges led to the I Bavarian Corps moving quickly to Eyweiler and Sieweiler. [7]

The main French offensive in the south began on 14 August, when the First Army (General Auguste Dubail) advanced with two corps into the Vosges and two corps north-east towards Sarrebourg, as the two right-flank corps of the Second Army (General de Castelnau) advanced on the left of the First Army. One corps and the Second Group of Reserve Divisions advanced slowly towards Morhange in echelon, as a flank guard against a German attack from Metz. The First Army had captured several passes further south since 8 August, to protect the southern flank as the army advanced to Donon and Sarrebourg. [8]

Despite warnings from Joffre against divergence, the army was required to advance towards the Vosges passes to the south-east, eastwards towards Donon and north-east towards Sarrebourg. German troops withdrew during the day, Donon was captured and on the left flank, an advance of 10–12 km (6.2–7.5 mi) was made. At dusk the 26th Division of the XIII Corps attacked Cirey and was engaged by artillery and machine-guns, which repulsed the French with many casualties. On 15 August, the Second Army reported that German long-range artillery had been able to bombard the French artillery and infantry undisturbed and that dug-in German infantry had inflicted many casualties on the French as they attacked. [8]

The Second Army had to attack methodically after artillery preparation but managed to push back the Germans. Intelligence reports identified a main line of resistance of the German 6th Army and 7th Army (combined under Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria) close to the advanced French troops and that a counter-offensive was imminent. On 16 August, the Germans opposed the advance with long-range artillery-fire and on 17 August, the First Army reinforced the advance on Sarrebourg. When the Germans were found to have left the city, Joffre ordered the Second Army to incline further to the north, which had the effect of increasing the divergence of the French armies. [9]

A German counter-attack on 20 August, forced separate battles on the French armies, which were defeated and retreated in disorder. The German pursuit was slow and Castelnau was able to occupy positions east of Nancy and extend the right wing towards the south, to regain touch with the First Army. During 22 August, the right flank was attacked and driven back 25 km (16 mi) from the position that the offensive had begun on 14 August. The First Army withdrew but managed to maintain contact with the Second Army. Between 24 and 26 August, both French armies repelled the German offensive at the Battle of the Trouée de Charmes and regained the line of 14 August by early September. [9]

Casualties Edit

In 2009, Holger Herwig used records from the Sanitätsberichte to give 34,598 casualties in the 6th Army during August, with 11,476 dead. In the 7th Army there were 32,054 casualties in August, with 10,328 men killed. [10]


Siege of Maubeuge

Skilful Retreat Conducted by Foch De Castelnau's Lorraine army was still in peril, however, and a further withdrawal across the Seille and Meurthe rivers and thence into France, was decided upon.

The army was ordered to fall back to a new position on the French side of the frontier, covering the Trouvée de Charmes, a gap in the Eastern fortress barrier, with the entrenched camp of Toul on its left and that of Epinol on its right.

In co-operation with Dubail's First Army, they would there await the inevitable attack by the victorious Germans.

Foch's 20th Corps was assigned to act as the rear guard of the whole army, covering its retirement across the Meurthe to the new battle positions. A welcome reinforcement reached the Second Army on August 21, made up of three brigades and several batteries of artillery belonging to the 9th Corps which had mobilized at Tours.

The retreat across the frontier was begun on August 21. Gen. Foch, with his "Iron Corps," guarded the retirements, holding the heights on the left bank of the Meurthe above and below St. Nicholas and covering the river crossings with his artillery fire.

On the right bank, a brigade of the llth Division, with several batteries, held the heights above Flainvol against repeated attacks, and only withdrew across the river at dark, blowing up the bridges as they went. The only French troops left on the right bank were those that held the Grand Cauronne. On Sunday, August 23, the Second Army was in position on its chosen battle ground for the defence of the Charmes Gap.

Allied Line in the North Also in Retreat

On the same day, Lanrezac's French army on the Sambre was defeated by von Buelow, the British had begun their retreat from Mons, the armies of De Ruft'ey and De Langle had both been shattered and the whole Allied line on the Northern frontier was falling back.

As a result of the defeat of the Second French Army at Morhange, Gen. Dubail's First Army was obliged to abandon the

Donan heights in Alsace and the neighboring line of the Vosges, and Gen. Pau was withdrawing from Mulhousen. Both were ordered to unite with Gen. de Castelnau in front of Trouvée de Charmes.

Battle of Trouvée de Charmes (Nancy)

Sunday, August 23, found the armies of Castelnau and Dubail standing in battle formation in front of the Trouvée de Charmes, the 20-mile gap opening in the side of France, near Nancy, flanked on its northern end by the fortified Meuse heights and on its southern end by a fortified spur of the Vosges.

De Castelnau's battle line, with its left on the heights of the Grand Cauronne and extending southward toward Essey, formed almost a right angle with Gen. Dubail's line, which ran from Essey by way of Baccarat to the Vosges. The German advance, therefore, must either be frontal against one army, exposing a flank to the other, or else form a salient enveloped by the French from the outset. Including the terrain swept by the guns mounted in the forts of Toul and Epinol, the front was 45 miles long.

The Germans, after occupying Luneville on the 23d, advanced toward the Gap and gave battle on the following day. A corps of Gen. Heeringen's army made an attempt to turn Dubail's flank by forcing the Pass of St. Marie in the Vosges, but was repulsed by the 14th French Corps, reinforced by troops from the garrison of Epinol.

At the same time, two corps of Bavarian troops had pushed along by the Meurthe valley and engaged the 21st French Corps at Celles and Baccarat, but still the line did not budge. The main attack was made against De Castelnau's front.

Advancing across the Mortague valley on both sides of Gerbeviller, the Germans flung themselves in dense masses against the positions held by the 15th and 16th French Corps, but the men of Provence and Languedoc amply retrieved their failure at Morhange, resisting every attack. On the right of them, Conneau's cavalry fought dismounted. Here the attack was pressed furiously for hours, but in vain. Now began a terrific bombardment, shells and shrapnel raining upon the Plateau, but it could not disperse the indomitable Frenchmen.

Foch's Great Victory at Nancy

The German assault having failed, Gen. de Castelnau resolved to launch a counter- offensive, in charge of Gen. Foch. In addition to his own 20th Corps, Foch was given command of the 70th Resei*ve Division and two brigades of the 9th Corps.

Foch hurriedly planned a turning movement against the German right flank, with the heights beyond the Sanon as his objective, thus cutting the German communications and endangering their whole position. Under cover of the guns of the Grand Cauronne, Foch led his 20th Corps, first across the Meurthe by bridges, and then against the heights of Sanon, while the other detachments, under Gen. Fayolle, were pushed forward toward the Luneville-Chateau Salins road, north of the Marne and Rhine Canal.

Seeing their danger, the German defenders of Sanon called for reinforcements, but the whole German army was by now wholly engaged repelling the counter-offensive, and no troops could be spared. Before nightfall, Gen. Foch had reached the heights beyond Sanon, had stormed Flainval and the neighboring villages, and cleared the wood of Crevic of the enemy. Gen. Fayolle, with the 70th Reserves, had co-operated splendidly, having advanced within 2!/> miles of Serres on the Chateau Salins road.

By desperately using all his reserves, Prince Rupert on the following day managed to hold both Foch and Fayolle in check, for a

few hours, but this was fatal to his main battle line, which showed signs of weakening. When the German front began to waver, Gen. de Castelnau ordered a general offensive.

The French attacked from three directions, compelling a retreat of the Germans through the wide gap between the Chateau Salins road and the Vosges. They fought stubbornly as they withdrew, but in three days they were driven across the German border, with heavy losses. This was the first great victory won by France, and coming so soon after the defeat at Morhange, it filled the nation with joy.

Foch Promoted to Command of an Army

The generalship displayed by Gen. Foch in that victory entitled him to promotion. Summoned by Gen. Joffre to Chalons, he was complimented for his work at Nancy and given command, not of a corps, merely, but of an army—the immortal Ninth French Army—which was to be hastily formed out of army units then retreating from the Belgian border, and destined two weeks later to win imperishable glory as the real victor of the Battle of the Marne.

The German casualties in the Battle of Nancy are said to have reached the astounding total of 250,000, and this disaster to German arms was brought about by a French force but little more than half as large as the Germans.

WESTERN THEATER. AUG. 22 SEPT. 6

French Armies Overwhelmed at Neufchateau and Charleroi

Their Retreat Towards the Marne Leaves British Forces Isolated at Mons ' SECTION 6-1914 »— ""

Gen. JofFre, Commander-in-Chief Third Army, Gen. de Ruffey Fourth Army, Gen. Langle de Carey Fifth Army, Gen. de Lanrezac

(succeeded by Gen. d'Esperey)

ILE Gen. de Castelnau's army was retreating out of Lorraine, on August 21-22, three other French further north were being over-

Duke of Württemberg
Crown Prince Frederick
Gen. Hausen

whelmed by the German flood along the Belgian and Luxemburg borders. At this time there were four Allied armies in alignment on the French frontier—Sir John French's British Expeditionary Force near Mons, Gen. de Lanrezac's Fifth French Army near Charleroi, Gen. Langle de Carey's Fourth French Army north of Sedan, and Gen. de Ruffey's Third French Army holding the pivot position near Verdun.

As a preliminary to his plan of driving a wedge in between the armies of von Kluck and von Buelow, and uniting with the Belgian army at Brussels, Gen. Joffre had sent strong reinforcements to Gen. Lanrezac, ordering him to proceed through Charleroi and flank von Buelow's army. While Lanrezac's army was moving up to the line of the Sam- bre to give battle to von Buelow's forces, Gen. Langle de Carey's army was advancing from Sedan across the Semois River to confront the Duke of Württemberg, and throwing out detachments on the left bank of the Meuse in hopes of keeping in touch with Lanrezac on the west. Further to the east, Gen. Ruffey's Third Army was advancing on Luxemburg to oppose the German Crown Prince and raise the siege of Longwy.

Unknown to the French Staff, there was another large German army, that of Gen. Hausen, lying concealed behind the forests of the Ardennes, and it was this unsuspected force that was destined to bring disaster to the Allied cause.

The two German army groups, commanded by the Duke of Württemberg and Crown Prince Frederick, were at this time separated by the River Meuse, and it seemed entirely feasible to defeat them separately. The Germans, however, had outwitted the French by planting Gen. Hausen's army in reserve behind the Ardennes.

So, instead of attacking seven German corps, as they had anticipated, the French encountered thirteen corps of infantry and three of cavalry. In addition, the Germans had a great superiority in artillery, aviation, machine guns, and material in general.

French Defeat at Neufchateau

Still unaware of the vastly superior forces which the Germans had assembled, the French forces, on August 21, confidently advanced to give them battle. Namur had not yet fallen, and indeed, the fortress was expected to hold out for weeks. The Third French Army, commanded by Gen. Ruffey, followed from the east to the west the course of the Semois River, a tributary of the Meuse. The Fourth French Army, under Gen. Langle de Carey, operated between the Meuse and the Lesse. The German forces occupied the wooded plateau, extending from Neufchateau to Palisent, which they had strongly fortified.

On August 21, Gen. Langle's infantry boldly attacked the Wurttembergers, but were repulsed. Still fighting, they fell back across the Meuse River. The pursuit by the Germans was punctuated by strong counterattacks, inflicting great losses upon them.

Gen. Ruffey's Third Army was similarly checked in its advance on Neufchateau by the superior forces of the German Crown Prince and was thrown back on the line of the Semois River. Both offensive actions undertaken by the armies of the French center had miscarried. Not only were they unable to lend their aid to Gen. Lanrezac, operating before Charleroi on their left, but they were obliged to retreat.

The French Disaster at Battle of Charleroi

French Army, 120,000
Gen. Lanrezac

The French army of Gen. Lanrezac, on the day following the battle of Neufchateau, met with defeat, because that general had failed to carry out his instructions, which were : To occupy the city of Charleroi in full force, to entrench on both sides of the Sambre River, to destroy bridges across the river, and to secure his right flank from attack.

Gen. von Buelow invested Charleroi on August 22 with his full strength of 300,000

German Army, 300,000
Gen. von Buelow
Gen. von Hausen

men. Crossing the bridges above and below Charleroi, the Germans poured into the city. There ensued one of the deadliest battles of the war. The thoroughfares of Charleroi at once were swept by a tempest of machine-gun fire. Great chimneys toppled over upon the combatants, burying hundreds in the debris. Hand-to-hand conflicts took place in factories, in workshops, and in the electric power station.

Into this desperate fray leaped the savage Turcos and Zouaves, fighting with long sheath knives and bayonets. Again and again they forced the Germans back to the environs of Charleroi. The city became a roaring furnace and in a few hours was reduced to ruins.

Lanrezac Succeeded by d'Esperey

That night Gen. Lanrezac learned of the fall of Namur. More startling still, he was informed that Gen. Hausen, with a new German army, 300,000 strong, had crossed the Meuse River at Dinant and was moving ag-ainst his flank. To avoid being crushed between two enemy armies, Lanrezac gave orders for a hurried retreat southward. With heavy losses, he managed to reach Maubeuge, where he resigned his command to Gen. d'Esperey. So rapid was Gen. Lan- rezac's flight that he could not find time to notify the British army of his intended retreat. The losses in this battle of Charleroi were appalling on both sides.

Retreat of the French Armies

Lanrezac's Fifth Army, on retiring from Charleroi, barely escaped envelopment by these German armies. Von Buelow attacked from the north, von Hausen assailed the right wing, while /the path of retreat was threatened by a third German force. By fighting desperate rear-guard actions, and with Sordet's cavalry protecting their western flank, the Fifth Army reached Guise. Here, strongly reinforced, they turned upon their nearest pursuers, August 23, driving the Prussian Guards and the Tenth German Corps across the River Oise and continuing their retirement without hindrance in the direction of the Gap of Chimay.

Evacuation of Dinant, Charleville, Mesieres

Langle De Carey's Fourth Army, operating along the Meuse, made a stand at Dinant on August 23. Here the Saxons, in great strength, sought to gain possession of the bridges. The French for a time retained the bridges, but later they blew them up before retiring southward toward their own frontier. The Saxons, however, succeeded in crossing the Meuse at Givet and resumed the pursuit.

On the following day, August 24, the French evacuated Charleville, leaving behind a small artillery garrison whose machine guns were so placed as to command the three bridges that connect Charleville with Mesieres. As the German vanguard entered the two towns the bridges were suddenly blown up behind them by contact mines, and their ranks were riddled by the French machine guns.

At the same time, the main German army appeared in view in the valley below and were greeted by a shower of shrapnel from the French guns on the hills above the town. The French, yielding to numbers, finally evacuated both Charleville and Mesieres, and retreated to Neufchateau, where they were attacked by the Duke of Wurttemberg's army.

On the same day, the garrison of Toul was compelled to evacuate before the attacks of the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria.

The collapse of the Meuse line on August 27 was followed by the rapid retreat of Ruf- fey's and Langle de Carey's armies, closely pressed by the three German armies of Crown Prince Frederick, Gen. von Hausen, and the Duke of Wurttemburg. A decisive action was fought on August 7 at Donchery, near the famous battlefield of Sedan. Von Hausen, moving up the left bank of the Meuse, attacked Langle in flank, menacing his line of retreat, while the Duke of Württemberg struck at his front. Against such odds Gen. Langle de Carey could not hope to prevail. Accordingly, he fell back hastily toward Rethel.

Longwy Surrendered to the Germans

Langle's retirement from Donchery exposed the flank of Ruifey's army on his right, compelling the tetter's retreat toward the wooded plateau of the Argonne. This retirement involved the surrender of the forts of Mesieres and Montmedy on the 27th.

Longwy capitulated on the 27th to the Crown Prince Frederick, who advanced into France in the direction of the Argonne. Its brave defender, Lieut. Colonel Darche, had held out for 24 days against the assaults of the enemy, but the ancient fort could not longer withstand the pounding of the German guns. All the northern strongholds, excepting Maubeuge, were now in the enemy's possession.

Rheims, Chalons, La Fere, Laon Captured

The French made a brief stand on the Aisne River, where Langle de Carey had occupied the town of Rethel. After two days of hard fighting, the French were forced, on August 29, across the Aisne, and the town

of Rethel was put to the torch. Crossing the Aisne, in hot pursuit of the French, the Germans captured Rheims and Chalons on. August 29, without firing a shot, and on the next day the fortressed towns of La Fere and Laon surrendered.

The general retirement on the line of the Marne was continued, and the pursuit of the Germans slackened. By September 3, the French armies had finished their retreat and were awaiting the word that would send the Huns reeling back.

WESTERN THEATER. AUG. 24-SEPT. 6

British Army Retreats 150 Miles from Mons to the Marne

Bloody Battles Fought at Mons, Le Cateau, Andregnies, Landrecies, Maroilles, Cambrai i . . . . ,.„. . . . . . SECTION 7-1914 —-*

Gen. Sir John French, Commander
First Army Corps, Gen. Douglas Haig
Second Army Corps, Gen. Smith-Dorrien
Gen. Allenby (Cavalry)
Gen. Chetwode (Cavalry)
Gen. Sordet (Cavalry)
Gen. d'Amale (Cavalry)

WITH four French armies in full retreat on their several fronts, after the repulse at Charleroi, only the small British Expeditionary Force at Mons remained on the northern border to stem the German flood which was surging southward through Belgium.

Realizing at last that he had greatly underestimated the strength of the German invasion, Gen. Joffre's immediate strategic concern was how to save the Allied armies from irreparable disaster. Of French reserves he had at most four corps, which he might send north to assist his routed aï-mies in making a final stand against the Germans. His Gallic caution, however, advised him that the situation was too fraught with danger to justify so desperate a risk. Outnumbered in the ratio of seven to four, the French forces could not hope definitely to hold the Germans in check.

If Joffre should hazard a battle in the north, his armies would be far removed from their base, while the German line of communication was not yet strained. Defeat

Gen. von Kluck's army
Gen. von Buelow's army

now would spell disaster to the Allied cause and the complete triumph of Germany. With the surrender of the French armies, Paris would fall, and the Germans could dictate an ignoble peace, both to France and England. Germany might then give her undivided attention to Russia and by annihilating the Czar's armies attain to the mastery of Europe and Asia.

With these reservations in mind, Gen. Joffre wisely decided to waive the opportunity for battle in the north, and, instead, continue his retreat to the Marne, leading the Germans on to an insecure position where he might counter-attack them with some hope of success. Each step of the German advance would draw them farther from their base of supplies, while the French were retreating toward their base. Moreover, the French mobilization was rapidly progressing, and Joffre already had taken steps to form two new armies which would be in readiness to attack the German line when he had lured it southward to the Marne. Joffre accordingly ordered a general retreat and thence

forward he played with the German pursuers as a cat plays with a mouse. The Germans, too dense to comprehend the strategy of Joffre, and believing that the French armies were demoralized, fell into a trap that had been laid for them. Like the army of rats that trailed behind the pied piper of Hamelin, they followed whithersoever Joffre led, and never realized their blunder until the French and British fell upon them in the immortal Battle of the Marne. At the very outset, however, Joffre's plans miscarried, in part, on account of the confusion arising from the hurried retreat of the French armies.

British Are Isolated at Mons

Although the French armies on his right were in full retreat from the Belgian frontier on August 23, following their defeat first at Neuf chateau and then at Charleroi, Gen. Sir John French, the commander of the British forces, still remained in fatal ignorance of this important fact for at least 24 hours. His intelligence department appears to have functioned imperfectly. Gen. French was unaware that his little expeditionary force of 76,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry had been left in complete isolation on the 25-mile front along the Mons-Conde Canal. He knew nothing of the sweep of von Kluck's army through Belgium and the German intention to turn his left flank. His airmen had failed to detect the presence of swarms of German soldiers in the adjacent woods. Serene in the belief that he was supported on the right by Lanrezac's Fifth French Army and on the left by a screen of French cavalry, and confident that only two German corps at most opposed him in front, Gen. French tranquilly sat him down amid the slag heaps of the Mons region on that fatal Sunday, August 23, to await the attack of the Huns.

Gen. Smith-Dorrien's Second Army Corps held the left of the British line in front of Mons, while Gen. Douglas Haig's First Army Corps lay at Binche on the right, nearest to the position just vacated by Lanrezac's French army. Gen. Allenby's cavalry, numbering 10,000 horses, was stationed in the rear, while a French cavalry force under Gen. d'Amade, guarded the British left flank. In

addition, a cavalry corps of three divisions, under Gen. Sordet, rested farther south at Maubeuge, prepared to assist in any emergency that might arise.

The Surprise Attack by the Germans

At high noon, on Sunday, August 23, while the church bells in the neighboring villages were pealing joyously and the British soldiers were variously engaged at play or in washing their soiled garments, the heavens were rent with the screech of German shells fired from the cover of the woods fronting Mons. Squadrons of German airplanes suddenly appeared, circling over the British line.

The British airmen at once soared upward to give them battle. British cavalry patrols galloped in, bringing the information that the adjacent woods swarmed with German troops and heavy guns. Too late Gen. French learned that his little army faced, not two German corps, but six—a force of 300,000 Huns, as against 86,000 Britishers.

Six hundred German guns were at once brought into action, drenching the British left with shrapnel, and the right of the line with bomb-shells. German airplanes, by dropping smoke bombs, gave the range for their artillery. Thus while the air battle was in progress, the infantry faced a hurricane of shells.

Presently, from the cover of the woods, the German columns advanced in mass formation, a seemingly irresistible horde. Undismayed, the British veterans stood their ground, seizing their rifles and pouring a fusillade of bullets upon the oncoming squares, which melted in the heat of the British fire. As the living walls advanced, each in turn withered away before the bullet or the bayonet, until the German dead were piled breast high in places.

Again and again the driven Huns advanced, wavered, thinned, and retreated to the cover of the woods, but they were as constantly urged forward under the lash of their officers, until finally they all but reached the British line. As the dense masses of German infantry worked right up to the British trenches, the firing ceased and the British cavalry charged. With a blood-curdling yell, the Huns l'an back as though the fiends pursued them. Yet as the day waned, the British trench line was wearing thin the awful tempest of German artillery fire was eating the heart out of the defense. Slowly but surely the British batteries were silenced.

British Evacuate the Loop

The attack had now spread along the whole line of the canal, but except at the loop on the British right wing, the Huns had made no impression. There, however, numbers prevailed at last and in mid-afternoon the Third Battalion was ordered to retire from the salient and the Fifth Division on the left to conform.

After blowing up the bridges in the loop, the retreat was sounded and the Second Corps withdrew to a position on higher ground. As the right wing fell back, Gen. Chetwode's cavalry, by headlong charges, broke up every effort of the Germans to disorganize the rear.

On the left flank, held by Smith-Dorrien's corps, the Germans were seeking to suffocate the British line by sheer weight of numbers. They tried also to cross the canal by bridge and by pontoons, but the English for a time prevented this by the accuracy of their shell fire. The odds were, however, too uneven in the end the British details holding the bridgeheads were cut to pieces, the gunners dying to a man. The bridges were then destroyed by British engineers.

Foiled at the bridges, the enemy massed on the bank and tried to hold their positions. An artillery duel followed for possession of the canal bank. In the beginning the German masses were cut down by the British gunfire, but other German masses pressed on, and slowly, under frightful loss, they began to work their pontoon bridges across the smoke-clouded face of the canal.

Ten times they almost got the pontoons over, and as often the British guns reduced the boats to splinters. But the heroic efforts of the British were in vain. Fresh hordes of Huns were let loose against them their flanks were in danger a great turning movement was developing away to the west of Tournai it was time to retire.

Still unaware of the overpowering strength of the German forces which were bearing down upon his little army, though the true situation might have been discovered by efficient air scouts, Gen. French was dumbfounded when Marshal Joffre notified him at 5 p. m. that three German corps were moving against the British front, while a fourth German corps was endeavoring to outflank him from the west.

He was also informed that the Germans, on the previous day, had captured the crossings of the Sambre River, between Char- leroi and Namur, and that Lanrezac's army on his right was retreating. In other words, the defensive pivot of the Franco-British line at Namur, on which the Allied strategy depended, had fallen almost at a blow. By Sunday the Germans had left Namur, and, in numbers far exceeding French predictions, had seized the crossings of the Sambre and Middle Meuse and were hammering at the junction of the Fifth and Fourth French armies in the fork of the river. The junction was quickly pierced, and the French, being overwhelmingly assaulted both in front and in flank, could do nothing but retire.

When the British commander received this information, the French armies had been retreating for ten hours and were a day's march removed from him. Thus the British found themselves wholly isolated, engaged in front by three German corps and threatened by a fourth German corps on their left, with the French army a full day's march away. Undaunted, and with their proverbial coolness, the British made methodical arrangements for a retirement toward the prearranged line. The hard-pressed Second Corps began its retreat at midnight, its flank covered by the First Corps with massed artillery.

French Army Helps the British Right Wing

Meanwhile, Gen. Joifre had ordered D'Esperey's retreating Fifth French Army to turn about and counter-attack, in order to prevent the cutting off of the British right flank by von Buelow's forces. D'Esperey at once attacked the Germans, driving them back almost to the gates of Charleroi. In this brilliant engagement, the Algerian troops especially distinguished themselves, humbling the Kaiser's Prussian Guards.

To still further protect the retirement of Smith-Dorrien's Corps on the left of the line, Gen. French ordered Gen. Haig to boldly launch a counter-offensive along the Mons road from Bray to Binche. The enemy were then crossing the Mons Canal in great numbers and pouring down on the villages to the south. Haig*s heavy artillery fire held the Huns in check, giving the Second Corps time to form a strong battle line five miles to the south. Much desperate fighting took place on the 24th. A Cheshire regiment, nobly sacrificing itself, held the ridge from Andregnies to Elongues for several hours against overwhelming odds. Six hundred soldiers of the regiment fell in this heroic defence. Meanwhile, Gen. Allenby's cavalry, 10,000 horses, had been ordered to swing over to the extreme left and protect the Second Corps from a flanking movement begun by von Kluck from the west. At Andregnies the cavalry halted, facing the Huns at a range of 1000 yards.

Then the gallant Ninth Lancers charged the German flank in the face of a tornado of shell and rifle fire, with no protection from the withering blast. The Lancers were further confronted by double lines of wire, strung within 500 yards of the enemy. Men and horses fell by the hundreds before this withering fire. Only by super-courage were they enabled to save their batteries and make good their retreat. But von Kluck's flanking movement had failed.

Germans Held Ten Days at Maubeuge

After a short halt and partial entrenchment on the line Dour-Quarouble, to enable the First Corps to break off its demonstration, the retreat of the Second Corps was resumed, and by the evening of the 24th the whole British Expeditionary Force had reached the prearranged line, Jenlain-Bavai- Maubeuge.

The Second Corps, on the left, was protected by the cavalry operating westward, and by a new British brigade, the 19th, which had been brought up in the nick of

time. The First Corps, on the right, was sufficiently protected by the guns of the fortress of Maubeuge.

The Germans now began a wide enveloping movement, hoping to coop up the British army in the fortressed town of Maubeuge and capture it entire. In pursuance of this plan, Gen. von Kluck made a deep detour in the west in his effort to outflank the British left wing, while von Buelow was trying to roll up the British right flank.

Meantime, in their sweep forward on the 24th, the Germans had captured the French brigade of Marquis de Villaret at Tournai, and a British battery.

Gen. French, knowing the danger he incurred in relying upon the defences at Maubeuge, decided to vacate the position. Accordingly, the British army, on August 25, set out on the next stage of its retreat, marching south on either side of the forest of Mormal.

The French garrison, however, remained in Maubeuge, holding the fortress against repeated German attacks for ten days and thus depriving Gen. von Kluck of the services of 60,000 troops in the subsequent Battle of the Marne.

The British army made their stand in the neighborhood of Le Gâteau, where civilian labor had been employed to prepare and entrench the grounds. There the British were reinforced by a new division, sent forward to assist the retirement of the Second Corps. For both corps it had been a day of torture, marching under a blazing sun along 'roads crowded with transports and packed with refugees.

Under these trying conditions, the various units of the Second Corps had marched 20 to 35 miles on August 25, reaching their appointed line on the Cambrai-Le Gateau road as night was falling and in a cold, steady ram. The First Corps, having been delayed, did not reach the allotted position its units were scattered over a wide area, at some points 30 miles apart, and at no point nearer than Landrecies, eight miles from Le Gâteau.

The difficulties of movement had been increased by the convergence of the French troops, retiring from the Sambre, who cut across the British line of march. The enemy's pressure, moreover, had been continued well into the night.

The Siege of Maubeuge took place between August 24 and September 7, 1914 when the French garrison of the Maubeuge Fortress finally surrendered to the Germans at the start of World War I on the Western Front.

* August 7: General Fournier, commander of the Maubeuge Fortress, accurately warned that a massive German offensive over the Meuse River was likely. General Joseph Joffre promptly sacked him for defeatism.
* August 12: At a British War Council [15:00–18:00], Field Marshal Lord Kitchener predicted a major German drive through Belgium, but was compelled to agree to send the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to Maubeuge as planned instead of further back to Amiens. Kitchener ordered General John French not to consider himself under the command of the French Army.
* August 20: The BEF was fully assembled around Maubeuge.
* August 21: General Karl von Bülow ordered Alexander von Kluck’s 1st Army to veer from moving west to south towards Maubeuge. Kluck angrily objected as this prevented the German 1st Army from outflanking the Allied left. The BEF began marching north from Maubeuge towards Mons - reconnaissance reported that strong German forces were heading straight for it, but the reports are discounted by the confident Sir Henry Wilson.
* August 24: Early in the morning John French briefly threatened to retreat away from the Charles Lanrezac's Fifth Army towards Amiens, until he’s dissuaded by Joffre - John French also considered withdrawing the BEF into the fortress of Maubeuge. later the same day German Second Army opened its attack on the French fortress of Maubeuge.
* August 25: The advancing German Second Army left behind a corps to cover the French fortress of Maubeuge - the fortress commander was ordered to hold on.
* August 26: German forces had completely invested the bypassed fortress.
* August 29 to September 5: The surrounded French fortress was subjected to bombardment by German heavy artillery.
* September 5 to September 6: After a prolonged bombardment, German forces stormed four of the bypassed forts.
* September 7: During the evening, far behind the front line, the fortress complex at Maubeuge fell to the Germans, with 40,000 French soldiers taken prisoner.
* November 9, 1918: Maubeuge was re-taken by the British Guards Division and 62nd (West Riding) Division.


Watch the video: 1914-17 Siege of Maubeuge August 22 - Sept 7 1914