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First Battle of the Marne - Wikipedia
Read this Article. World War II, conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years — World War I, an international conflict that in —18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along…. View More. With France defeated, Germany would be free to focus their attention to the east Map. Anticipating that France would attack across the border into Alsace and Lorraine, which had been lost during the earlier conflict, the Germans intended to violate the neutrality of Luxembourg and Belgium to assault the French from the north in a massive battle of encirclement.
German troops were to defend along the border while the right wing of the army swung through Belgium and past Paris in an effort to destroy the French army. In , the plan was altered slightly by Chief of the General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, who weakened the critical right wing to reinforce Alsace, Lorraine, and the Eastern Front. After quickly occupying Luxembourg, German troops crossed into Belgium on August 4 after King Albert I's government refused to grant them free passage through the country. Possessing a small army, the Belgians relied on the fortresses of Liege and Namur to halt the Germans.
Heavily fortified, the Germans met stiff resistance at Liege and were forced to bring up heavy siege guns to reduce its defenses.
Surrendering on August 16, the fighting delayed the Schlieffen Plan's precise timetable and allowed the British and French to begin forming defenses to oppose the German advance Map. While the Germans moved on to reduce Namur August , Albert's small army retreated into the defenses at Antwerp. Occupying the country, the Germans, paranoid about guerilla warfare, executed thousands of innocent Belgians as well as burned several towns and cultural treasures such as the library at Louvain. Dubbed the "rape of Belgium," these actions were needless and served to blacken Germany's and Kaiser Wilhelm II's reputation abroad.
While the Germans were moving into Belgium, the French began to execute Plan XVII which, as their adversaries predicted, called for a massive thrust into the lost territories of Alsace and Lorraine. Slowly falling back, the Germans inflicted heavy casualties on the French before halting the drive.
Battle of the Frontiers
Having held, Crown Prince Rupprecht, commanding the Sixth and Seventh German Armies, repeatedly petitioned for permission to go on the counter-offensive. This was granted on August 20, even though it contravened the Schlieffen Plan. Attacking, Rupprecht drove back the French Second Army, forcing the entire French line to fall back to the Moselle before being stopped on August 27 Map. As events were unfolding to the south, General Charles Lanrezac, commanding the Fifth Army on the French left flank became concerned about German progress in Belgium.
Allowed by Joffre to shift forces north on August 15, Lanrezac formed a line behind the Sambre River. Though outnumbered, Lanrezac was ordered to attack across the Sambre by Joffre. Lasting three days, the Battle of Charleroi saw Lanrezac's men driven back.
To his right, French forces attacked into the Ardennes but were defeated on August Unlike the other armies in the conflict, the BEF consisted entirely of professional soldiers who had plied their trade in colonial wars around the empire. Fighting from prepared positions and delivering rapid, accurate rifle fire, the British inflicted heavy losses on the Germans.
Holding until evening, French was forced to pull back when the French cavalry departed leaving his right flank vulnerable.
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Though a defeat, the British bought time for the French and Belgians to form a new defensive line Map. With the collapse of the line at Mons and along the Sambre, Allied forces began a long, fighting retreat south towards Paris. Falling back, holding actions or unsuccessful counterattacks were fought at Le Cateau August and St. Quentin August , while Mauberge fell on September 7 after a brief siege. Assuming a line behind the Marne River, Joffre prepared to make a stand to defend Paris.
On the other side, the Schlieffen Plan continued to proceed, however, Moltke was increasingly losing control of his forces, most notably the key First and Second Armies. On the morning of September 5, Kluck detected the French advance and began turning his army west to meet the threat. In the resulting Battle of the Ourcq, Kluck's men were able to put the French on the defensive.
While the fighting prevented the Sixth Army from attacking the next day, it did open a mile gap between the First and Second German Armies Map. Attacking, Kluck almost broke through Maunoury's men, but the French were aided by 6, reinforcements brought from Paris by taxicab.
With the First and Second Armies being threatened with destruction, Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown. His subordinates took command and ordered a general retreat to the Aisne River. The Allied victory at the Marne ended German hopes of a quick victory in the west and Moltke reportedly informed the Kaiser, "Your Majesty, we have lost the war. Reaching the Aisne, the Germans halted and occupied the high ground north of the river. Pursued by the British and French, they defeated Allied attacks against this new position.
On September 14, it was clear that neither side would be able to dislodge the other and the armies began entrenching. At first, these were simple, shallow pits, but quickly they became deeper, more elaborate trenches. With the war stalled along the Aisne in Champagne, both armies began efforts to turn the other's flank in the west. The Germans, eager to return to maneuver warfare, hoped to press west with the goal of taking northern France, capturing the Channel ports, and cutting the BEF's supply lines back to Britain. Using the region's north-south railways, Allied and German troops fought a series of battles in Picardy, Artois and Flanders during late September and early October, with neither able to turn the other's flank.
As the fighting raged, King Albert was forced to abandon Antwerp and the Belgian Army retreated west along the coast. To the north, King Albert's men fought the Germans at the Battle of the Yser from October 16 to 31, but were halted when the Belgians opened the sea-locks at Nieuwpoort, flooding much of the surrounding countryside and creating an impassable swamp. With the flooding of the Yser, the front began a continuous line from the coast to the Swiss frontier. Launching a massive offensive in late October, with troops from the Fourth and Sixth Armies, they sustained heavy casualties against the smaller, but veteran BEF and French troops under General Ferdinand Foch.
Though reinforced by divisions from Britain and the empire, the BEF was badly strained by the fighting.
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The battle was dubbed the "The Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres" by the Germans as several units of young, highly enthusiastic students suffered frightful losses. When the fighting ended around November 22, the Allied line had held, but the Germans were in possession of much of the high ground around the town. Exhausted by the fall's fighting and the heavy losses sustained, both sides began digging in and expanding their trench lines along the front. As winter approached, the front was a continuous, mile line running from the Channel south to Noyon, turning east until Verdun, then slanting southeast towards the Swiss border Map.