Ch 2: On to France

The German General Staff had provided for the simultaneous invasion of France by eight armies, from their great military bases linked by a network of strategic railways, which ensured effective mobilisation and rapid transportation to the frontier. The complete success of the operations depended upon the ability to strike at all points while the French were unprepared and in the chaos of mobilisation, and to dash rapidly against Paris, delivering decisive blows before the ponderous forces of Russia must be met by a strong army on the eastern frontier. Every detail for the violation of neutral territories had been provided for, including proclamations in Flemish and French for general exigencies, many with date of imprint of 1906.
   From Cologne the armies marching via Belgium advanced through Aix-la-Chapelle. The First Army under General von Kluck, as described, moved due west across the unprotected section of the Meuse through the heart of Belgium, to march on France with its main advance down the Lille road from Brussels. The Second Army, under von Buelow, took the direct route from Berlin to Paris through Liege and Namur to Charleroi and into France via Maubeuge. Von Buelow had heavy siege trains, chiefly Austrian, to batter the forts en route. The Third Army, Saxon, under von Hausen, reached Belgium through Malmedy, marching along the Meuse to Huy, then southwest to Dinant, where the road, rail and river lead down to the frontier to France at Givet. Based on Coblenz, the Fourth Army under the Duke of Wurttemberg, advanced across North Luxemburg and Belgium and struck France at Mezieres and Sedan. Based on Coblenz and Frankfurt, the Fifth Army, under the Crown Prince, crossed Luxemburg to Arlon and attacked France at Longwy and Stenay, aiming at Verdun. The Sixth Army, under Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria, backed by the heavy artillery of the Metz garrison, moved across Lorraine against the Verdun-Toul barrier, to menace the forts and aim at the gap at Nancy, the key to the splendid roads along the Marne to Paris. The Seventh Army, under the veteran von Heeringen, attacked on the line from Luneville through Baccarat and St. Die. The Eighth Army, under Lieut. Gen. von Deimling, moved across Alsace, operating through the Vosges.
   General Joffre has been criticised severely for reversing the importance of the invading armies. Facts prove that he did nothing of the kind. Some experts have pointed out that the dictates of common-sense strategy would have prepared a campaign based on a great effort to hold the Belgian Meuse to save North France. But Joffre has the gift of uncommon sense. Had France been planning the war, her preparations might have been made in that direction. But defence has been France's watchword. Her policy was based on a pathetic belief that Belgian territory was inviolate, and to the last she avoided any step which would give Germany an excuse to trample over the buffer State. The chief French armies were based on points adjacent to the German frontier, and fixed plans of concentration cannot be changed over night. For years prominent Frenchmen had pleaded that the northern frontier should be fortified. The Committee of Defence specifically recommended that extensive forts and field works should be prepared, and garrisons maintained between Lille and Maubeuge, and through the Ardennes to Longwy, with a protected military railroad along the entire Belgian frontier. Prominent statesmen opposed this as a direct challenge for Germany to violate Belgium.
   Recall, also, that for ten years, curiously ignored in Great Britain and in the United States, pacific doctrines, largely socialistic, prevailed in France, based on a magnificent gospel of international brotherhood. The militarised socialism of Germany was reciprocated in France by a genuine policy for disarmament and universal peace. The disciples of Jaures shackled every reform and appropriation for the Army or Navy. Each measure urged for national defence was defeated on the plea that it would invite aggression. Farsighted statesmen, who knew that Germany was improving her artillery and making military efficiency a religion, were cried down. The theory of French pacifism was the most beautiful that the world had seen, and it was based on sound common sense. But it misunderstood its only menace; the subtle effect of national achievement in Germany on a virile and military people.
   The sudden crisis which developed in Morocco woke France from a trance. It checked the gospel of Herve, which was breaking down military discipline in the Reserves, and converted Briand, Millerand and Clemenceau. At once they reorganised the Army and Navy, and restored the original scope of conscription by a new military law. But to the last hour the pacifists remained true to the idea of a federated Europe without frontiers.
   Recalling frank threats that I had heard, in Cuba, Africa, Finland and Siberia, from some of those skilled soldier-commercials who develop German trade and study every local phase, military and political, through the world, I was deeply interested in a discussion on Belgium between American and French army engineers at the close of the July review in Paris, 1913. The French staff had evidently decided that their preparation along the Eastern frontier would tax German mobilisation so severely that it would not pay her to involve England by an invasion via Belgium.
   Before that visit to Paris closed, we were to hear the band of the Thirty-first Regiment drowned by the fierce tones of the "Internationale" with cries of "Death to the Army," as the regiment crossed the Belleville District. When loyalists started the "Marseillaise" the crowd threw stones and a fierce riot resulted. Thus we can perhaps compare militarism in France and Germany in 1913.
   In May, 1914, Mr. Messimy, after great opposition, did manage to get a modified bill passed, making three inadequate grants for northern frontier defence. Hisses then for this War Minister, now a soldier. Cries also of "Death to the Army," and some scuffling in July when Paris again became an armed camp. Hisses also for Joffre, because he forced several picturesque old generals into retirement for failures at manoeuvres. And two weeks after the close of France’s Day, the "Quatorze Juillet," had again demobilised and scattered thousands of France's soldiers, a conclusive proof that the Republic had not dreamed of war. A huge German army was waiting for the bugle-call to march on France via Belgium and the open frontier, her mobilisation far greater and more rapid than France or the world, including unofficial Germany, had dreamed. And Jaures was dead, murdered by a disciple crazed by the fear that France was betrayed by the pacific leaders, who had accepted too literally the divine command, "Love thy neighbour as thyself."
   When Belgium was invaded, the French realised that invasion must also be their lot, but along routes which would entail long lines of communication through hostile territory, and menaced by detached French armies. Paris would probably face a siege; but to besiege the capital was not necessarily to take it. There were no forces directly available to defend Belgium or to hold the north frontier. The Germans had Belgium on the brain, and expected that the French would tangle their plan of concentration by an attempt to rush their armies there, and would meet defeat in the process, leaving the barrier forts to hold their own. But, though German siege artillery surprised the world, the French staff was not surprised. Joffre, therefore, left the northern invaders until last, making his strong lines of defence doubly sure first, and throwing the flower of his army over the German frontier as a counter stroke.
   A strong series of field works was constructed facing the German frontier, to keep the siege guns from shelling the barrier forts. Early in the war these lines were manned and secured. This frustrated the second part of the German plan, which aimed to isolate and crush Verdun with heavy artillery while a way was battered via Nancy at the gap between Toul and Epinal, to open a direct road and railroad from Germany to France by which forces could pour to Paris, and attack in rear the French armies sent to cope with the huge commands advancing via Belgium. The first clash of patrols was at Delle where Andre Peugeot was the first French soldier killed in the war.
   On the Eastern front the regular first line forces of the French army were quartered, the actual armies of the frontier. At Belfort, with the fortress garrison under General Therenet, was the Seventh Corps under General Bonneau, the Alsace frontier force. The First Army under General Dubail (garrison troops, two divisions of Chasseurs and the Twenty-first Corps), was based on Epinal and guarded the approaches through the Vosges and along the frontier to Luneville. The Second Army commanded by General de Castelnau (garrison troops and the Ninth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twentieth Corps), based on Toul, included some of the finest regiments in France, and guarded the Lorraine border through Nancy and Toul northward toward Verdun. The Third Army (garrison forces and the Sixth and Eighth Corps), reorganised finally under General Sarrail, was based on Verdun, and covered the remainder of the German frontier, curving along the border of neutral Luxemburg, with a second "Corps de Couverture," an armoured division, usually garrisoned at Amiens.
   These forces, being well equipped, were soon ready, and having completed the barrier outworks, the much criticised offensive in Alsace and Lorraine was started, an ill-judged invasion of Germany to relieve automatically the pressure in Belgium. These brilliant but hazardous attacks had an electrical political effect. The invasion of Alsace took Altkirch and led to the temporary capture of Mulhausen. But these forces, which were to operate along the Rhine and act on the flank of the Second Army as it swept across Lorraine, lost touch. Being faced by superior artillery and attacked in unfortunate positions, they were forced to fall back on the Belfort field works with heavy loss. From tipper Alsace the German Army from Strasburg drove across the frontier, and captured Cirey, Badonviller, and Baccarat, where the civil population suffered terrible indignities. These forces were practically dividing the First and Second French Armies.
   In Lorraine, De Castelnau, sent from the Headquarters Staff to lead the splendid Second Army, had advanced over a wide front extending from Luneville to Pont a Mousson. Chateau Salins was captured, and Morhange and Dieuze, while the French cavalry swept over the Saarburg district. Everywhere the German advance guards were driven back with heavy loss before the impetuous attack of the finest soldiers in France.
   German mobilisation, however, had been amazingly rapid, and we know now that preliminaries were secretly started directly a cloud appeared on the horizon. With magnificent effrontery, while demanding that Russia demobilise, her own active assembling had commenced on July 24th. While German legions were sweeping Belgium clean, De Castelnau in Lorraine was entering a territory admirably constituted for defence, and his brilliant advance was suddenly checked. After he had swept over the Seille on August 17th, capturing many guns and prisoners, his army was confronted by superior numbers of the enemy on carefully prepared positions, backed by heavy artillery from Metz. His field guns were outranged. His magnificent cavalry on the flanks was everywhere checked by armoured cars and machine guns. Difficulties of transport soon hampered the French, now facing well organised forces based on two of the strongest fortifications in the world. The failure and retirement of the army in Alsace had uncovered De Castelnau's right flank, and his command was soon in danger of envelopment from the south.
   After terrific fighting for three days, with no means of locating or silencing the mass of heavy artillery carefully concealed in the wooded hills, three successive French assaults failed. Then from four directions the Germans launched counter attacks on the exhausted invaders, inflicting frightful losses and capturing many guns. Certain untried southern units of the Fifteenth Corps, well led by the gallant Espinasse, broke under the strain at Dieuze and imperiled the army. In some features Bull Run affords parallels, notably the magnificent behaviour subsequently of the defaulting units from the Bouches du Rhone, especially the 112th that broke one day and the next was decimated in a glorious and voluntary charge at Coincourt, where they drove out superior forces of the enemy. Henceforth the men from Marseilles and Midi fought like lions. Checked, flanked, and short of ammunition, on August 20th rapid retirement to France was necessary to save the army. The famous Twentieth Corps was left to cover the retreat, and these gallant regiments held off the Bavarian army for two days and nights before they were enveloped and one division practically wiped out.
   Flushed with victory, the Germans crossed the Lorraine frontier, and swarmed after De Castelnau over the border departments. Three fresh army corps were already moving up on his flank at Luneville, which was evacuated. Fort Manonvillers, isolated, outranged and bombarded, soon capitulated. The advanced outposts of France were down. But everywhere the French rallied on their new defensive line. Dubail's left, which had fallen back from Luneville, now stood firm on the prepared front on high ground, and by co-operation with the Second Army reserves and the Toul garrison, brilliant counter attacks were delivered simultaneously south and east of Nancy, forcing the pursuing Germans to withdraw and consolidate. This enabled De Castelnau to rally and establish his shaken forces along the prepared positions on the Grande Couronne of Nancy, and the wooded heights which dominate the roads from Chateau Salins, natural barriers on the most critical point along the Franco-German frontier.
   In jubilant tones the German official reports had spoken of the crushing defeat of De Castelnau. The capture of guns and generals, with spoils from the reverse checked by the Twentieth Corps, fostered their belief. But De Castelnau’s forces stood before Nancy like a rock against which successive waves of assault were soon breaking in vain. Nowhere in the war had a German victory seemed more certain or so suddenly elusive. Miles of Joffre's field works kept the heavy artillery from the main frontier positions.
   North of Nancy the left of the Second Army, augmented by the Toul garrison, now withstood tremendous pressure from Metz at the point where, with some success, violent efforts were made to break in south of Verdun. A column also reached Spincourt from Metz, only fifteen miles northeast of the French stronghold.
   North of Verdun the French had launched a third offensive with the field forces of the Third Army against part of Wurttemberg and the Crown Prince's armies marching through Belgian Luxemburg and the Grand Duchy. Here again early successes as at Mangiennes, where guns and 1,200 prisoners were taken, led the troops to an impetuous advance which narrowly escaped disaster. Near Neufchateau, though the Crown Prince had blundered, the Duke of Wurttemberg caught the French flank, when the front was facing a concentration of artillery and machine guns which inflicted terrible losses. Again the French fell back rapidly but without disorder, losing some prisoners, and sacrificing a strong rear guard and its artillery to cover this retirement.
   In the other offensives, except for the political effect of the invasion of the lost provinces, great risks were taken with little result, and the armies could have been more wisely employed on the defensive lines which have so effectively checked the German onslaught. Every nation has to learn by bitter experience the difference between offense and defence under modern conditions, Cuba, South Africa and Manchuria notwithstanding. On the Luxemburg frontier, however, the checked offensive gained important strategic results. It changed the plans of the impetuous Crown Prince, and disarranged his co-operation with the Duke of Wurttemberg. But the army corps that covered the French retirement was terribly cut up, and the remnant, including its highest officers, was captured. Here especially, the brilliance of the French uniforms cost many lives.
   Enraged by the sight of their first dead, some of the Crown Prince's soldiers lost their heads, and during the French retreat many wounded were bayoneted or killed with rifle butts as the Germans swept over the field. Americans with the French Bed Cross verify this, and state that surgeons and their helpers were also murdered. Such incidents are an illuminating commentary on the German state of mind. The ruthless ferocity is not merely inherent brutality. It springs from a spirit of unimaginative revenge against those who oppose the doctrine of "Divine Germanic Right," which is the source of the enemy's great strength, and greatest weakness.
   The advance of the Crown Prince was also delayed by the amazing defence of Longwy by Colonel d'Arche and an insignificant garrison. Surprised when the war started, and completely invested, this heroic French force imposed heavy losses on their enemy, and held out from August 3rd to August 27th, and in those twenty-four days the town, the fortress and garrison were obliterated. The defence of Longwy deserves a volume to itself. It helped to save Verdun, and Verdun has saved France. D'Arche was able to do more than some of the armies. Thus in Belgium and France the first three weeks of war upset all calculations on both sides.
   With the regular lines of frontier defence completed and manned (entrenched positions starting on the Swiss border and ending with a huge perimeter of outworks around Verdun), and while the First, Second and Third Armies were carrying out their ill-fated offensives beyond, mobilisation was giving Joffre forces to build up a line with field armies which he deployed northwest across the Belgian frontier, to meet the menace of the huge forces gathering there to invade France. De Castelnau had extended his left toward Verdun, where the garrison curved round the position and formed the link with the basic units of the Third Army which was facing northeast. General Sarrail took command when its offensive failed.
   At Givet the Fifth Army had gathered on the Meuse under its senior general, soon replaced by General d'Esperey. This force was moved over westward, and the Fourth Army (under General Langle de Gary was built up between its right and the Third Army. These field armies, a total of ten corps, were composed of various units including the Moroccan and two Algerian divisions brought up from Africa and later stiffened by the splendid Ninth and Eighteenth Corps. Compared to their opponents, they were skeleton forces, for mistakes, confusion, and the result of years of economy in lesser equipment had retarded the mobilisation of the French Reserves, though the work was more efficient than was generally expected.
   Every German's complete equipment was assembled and ready. Thirty minutes after muster, reserve regiments could fall in, in heavy marching order. The French system was more cumbersome. But while the Belgians were closing their first campaign, a thin French line was extended from Verdun northwest through Charleroi, along the Sambre, with a cavalry division operating farther in Belgium. The last two French corps only reached the front on August 19th.
   The British regular army, which had landed in France, now sent up two army corps to add other sections to the French left, extending the line from Binche west of Charleroi through Mons to Conde. Had there been time another French army, the Sixth, gathering at Amiens and Rouen, would have come up on the British left, carrying the line toward Lille, where the garrison was covering important roads from Brussels to North France.
   With six corps on a war footing in his frontier armies, Joffre had flung them forward as strategic advance guards to engage the enemy with least delay, to force the development of their forces, to deal swift blows and then retire, fighting delaying actions, with rear-guard tactics, while the French Reserves were mobilised. But French strategy was mainly defensive. German mobilisation had been too rapid to allow these plans to develop, however. The initial cost was also too great. And the line across Belgium was inadequate to hold the front and had no time to entrench.
   At Dinant on August 15th, a French force from Givet had surprised and driven back part of the Saxon Army which was the first pivot, and inactive while the armies on its right fought and changed front. But this was a big affair of outposts. The third week of the war was closing when the Kaiser, impatient at the delays, gave the word from the "Grosses Hauptquartier" for a general assault on France by all the armies on the stupendous front. The army in Alsace achieved some advantage, until the French were reorganised under the one-armed hero, Pau. Ruprecht of Bavaria rushed his masses forward, after the capture of Luneville, to achieve failure before Nancy. Above Nancy some ground was gained and a wedge driven below Verdun by the Metz garrison forces. With huge losses, the German Crown Prince hurled the Fifth Army against the French forces above Longwy and drove them back, though the fort and its plucky garrison continued their isolated resistance.
   The Wurttemberg army and Saxon forces on the right were now closing to the Meuse, leaving the French Third Army to retire at leisure. But west of the river the great armies of von Buelow and von Kluck were conducting operations more imminently vital to the fate of France. If Namur could have held out like Liege, there might still have been time to defend the river adequately, to use the Meuse and the forts as a wedge to divide the German line. Von Buelow had flung his Guards at Charleroi on August 20th, and for three days the African contingents had hotly contested its possession. While the British were moving into place, the French had twice fought their way back to be expelled, though they still held grimly to the outskirts. And there could be no general advance from Belgium while Namur held. But concentrated artillery fire blew huge gaps in its outer defences, enabling German and Austrian siege howitzers to close in on the main fortifications, which were literally blown to pieces in twelve hours, opening the chief barrier to the north frontier. One of the most famous fortifications in Europe, Namur, collapsed like a stronghold of sand just as von Kluck was free to march south. On the left of the thin French line, on the Sambre, the Chasseurs a Pied, an infantry brigade, the Twenty-seventh Dragoons and a few field batteries, were vainly trying to hold the river against the Seventh Army Corps and the Twenty-fourth Regiment of artillery. An ominous gap existed also between the French and British.
   The French staff had greatly underestimated the number of German troops in Belgium. Not only were all the reserve corps fully mobilised and ready to co-operate, but the Ninth Army, including effective forces of Landsturm and other units, had reached the front by August 20th to encompass the Belgian army in the Antwerp district and to garrison the various towns. The five main armies therefore had now wheeled into line and closed on the open frontiers of France in full strength, utterly unaffected by the invasions of Alsace and Lorraine and enormously superior to the Franco-British field forces opposing them.
   In Hainaut province, Mons, the neat, if ancient, capital, was spending its Sunday quietly. The beautiful "carillon" in the belfry marked the hour of special services in the cathedral, where crowds of women and the aged prayed for Belgium. There was no band concert in the Grande Place on August 23rd, but half the town was there discussing the war news, and greatly excited by the scouts and dispatch riders who dashed through the streets. For many anxious days the Belgians had endured suspense. Now the French had come up and the British army was arriving. The citizens argued that the Germans in Brussels would soon be wasting their time before impregnable Antwerp, and the enemy, if they succeeded at Namur, would pass to France down the direct roads there, and leave them unmolested.
   The German advance cavalry had formed a screen of reticence, scores of suspects were executed, and no definite news had come through. But troops by the hundred thousand had poured into Belgium, and the German columns, tireless and seemingly endless, were tramping steadily down the Route de Brunhilde where Roman legions had swarmed before them. And by every other road to France the dull gray columns now moved like a great inundation.
   On the British front, on Saturday and early on Sunday, as the troops were arriving, reports came in which indicated that only two German army corps with cavalry were advancing down the roads from Brussels. The British were on the line behind the canal from Conde through Mons, and eastward to Binche where the cavalry division kept in touch eastward with the French at Fontaine toward Charleroi. On the extreme left a single battalion of the Scottish Black Watch guarded the road to Lille, at Tournai, the oldest of Belgium's towns. As the Third Corps had not arrived, the British had no reserves, but no general attack was expected while Namur held.
   The British regular troops in Belgium were only one brigade more than four infantry divisions of 12,000 men, with the regular equipment of artillery and engineers, and five brigades of cavalry. But they were highly trained professional soldiers. On the British right two regiments had just arrived, tired out after forced marches with extra ammunition, and were preparing to bivouac. Other troops were coming to cement the line with the French, when patrols came in to report that heavy columns were moving to strike between the British and the French forces. A rain of shells along the right wing announced an advance from the northeast.
   Aeroplanes now reported that both the armies of von Kluck and von Buelow were advancing in force. Von Kluck’s right had moved down the Lille roads and turned southeast, with the single battalion of the Black Watch, their two machine guns and one battery, to face this entire wing and keep it from enveloping the British left. Thus the two British army corps were to face the entire First German Army, while the right of the Second Army was aiming at their flank and had moved between them and the French. Under a terrific shelling the newly arrived battalions on the British right, the Royal Irish and the Suffolks, extended, scratched a light trench under fire, and poured volleys into the massed columns of Germans, which advanced as steadily as on parade and came within a few yards of the British lines before they were broken, and retired. The British cavalry then charged but were soon checked by machine guns, as a second wave of gray advanced against withering volleys until pitchforked back by British bayonets. At five o'clock news came that Namur had fallen the night before and that the French armies had retired over the Sambre.

General von Kluck

   Diverting his cavalry and one corps to work round the British left flank and cut off retreat, von Kluck now brought his main columns against the centre and left of the greatly outnumbered British, and by sunset the entire line was hotly engaged facing a concentration of 600 guns. The outposts stood like a rock beyond the Mons canal, and the battery which supported them lost all its gunners before the advance fell back, dragging the guns by hand. The engineers then blew up the bridges.
   From Tournai, the Scottish battalion on the flank, sending futile appeals for help, held out grimly until their ammunition gave out, and after dark a few survivors escaped, the battalion having been overwhelmed and annihilated. With the French retirement on the right, both British flanks were now exposed, and although urgent orders were sent to the garrison at Lille to move out to cover the left, alarming cavalry screens on the direct Lille roads led General Percin to hold his forces to protect the city. For this course he has been severely disciplined, since it menaced the safety of the entire line. As Uhlans actually rode into Roubaix, the general deserves great sympathy.
   To clear its flank the British right had now fallen back to higher ground, holding stubbornly to every scrap of cover, and inflicting heavy losses as it retired. But the Second Corps was unable to conform. Searchlights lit up their lines, and it was nearly daybreak, after several charges by Fergusson's cavalry, before the exhausted left could disengage itself and fall back, cutting its way through hostile cavalry in the rear.
   Von Kluck, von Buelow, von Hausen and the Duke of Wurttemberg were all striking in force at the Allied line across south Belgium. Strong columns had poured across the famous industrial district of La Centre down the roads to Binche, Fontaine and Charleroi, still partly held by the African troops. The French line had made a gallant stand all Saturday night, but the Fifth French Army was then weak in artillery and unwilling to entrench to lose mobility. As the attack was developed it was forced back steadily between Charleroi and the Meuse, facing the heaviest losses in the war. Below Namur, near Dinant, the French had held their own through Saturday and Sunday, though the Germans were pouring across the Meuse at Huy. Wurttemberg and Saxon armies drove at the thin French line and in repeated blows forced a retirement of the Fourth Army across the river. Here fierce fighting took place near Sedan, but with French batteries on the heights inflicting a heavy toll where German guns forty-six years before had crushed the French. Thirty-three massive bridges on the Meuse south of Namur, were defended by French guns and, for each, the Germans faced heavy losses, only to have the structures blown up successively by the retreating French as their forces gained possession. And at all these points the enraged invaders sought revenge on the civil population, and gave no quarter to devoted detachments cut off across the river. Superior in numbers and organisation, however, and with innumerable pontoon trains, the avalanche of gray moved steadily across the Meuse Valley, pushing the French back southwest.
   Further west artillery finally drove the French from the slag heaps south of Charleroi. For three hours one force made a desperate stand at the canal bridge before the railway station, but was finally shelled out, and the line had to retire through Marchiennes, Landelis and Montignies. Repulse followed repulse. After very heavy fighting on the Semois River and in the Ardennes, by Sunday night the sadly mixed field armies, greatly outnumbered, were holding a very irregular front back in France again, partly through a lack of trained coordination of units in the overwhelming onslaught.
   The stupendous and complete mobilisation of the German army, and its concentration at every necessary point were feats beyond the range of conjecture. In the Spanish War, two months of hostilities found only Shafter's army, equalling a single European division, and poorly equipped, ready for service. Three weeks of this war saw Belgium overwhelmed, and the German army, replete in detail from the siege trains down to liquorice to prevent patrols from coughing, with every preliminary finished, taking a vigorous offensive entirely on alien soil. Eliminating the help of the Belgians and British, the first German plan could not have failed. Von Kluck had four active and one reserve corps and special divisions of cavalry; von Buelow, the Guard Corps and two active and two reserve corps and siege trains; von Hausen, three corps, a total of 600,000 men and 2,000 guns. In the centre two armies with eight corps were closing in on open France east of Givet, and eight corps and special artillery were also over the Franco-German frontier.
   This critical August Sunday proved an anxious day for Joffre. His Intelligence Department tardily announced the general advance of von Kluck and von Buelow, in far greater force than he had anticipated. News of the sudden fall of Namur had opened the day. His offensives everywhere were breaking down. The retirement of the French lines on the Sambre and the loss of Charleroi were reported, with the news of checks or serious reverses from Dinant to Neufchateau, and nothing but discouragement from De Castelnau and along the entire eastern front. In Alsace, Mulhausen had been evacuated. Joffre was forced to advise the British to retire to conform with the Fifth Army, which had fallen back through Beaumont, its left toward Maubeuge.
   When the British had retired fighting into France to the line Valenciennes-Maubeuge, the left practically enveloped, the French Commander-in-Chief had to think and act quickly. He might order a desperate stand along the north frontier, a hazardous attempt to save France, or he could sacrifice valuable territory by drawing back the lines to more favourable positions, and thus keep his forces intact. This was the great principle of French strategy always. Verdun must be held at all costs, and the flank of the barrier forts protected. But he ordered the field armies to pivot back steadily, their right on the fortress, their front unbroken. For a rough idea set a clock at five minutes to five, call the hour hand the barrier forts, Verdun the centre. Now move the large hand, the field armies, back to between eight and nine, Paris, and you cover the strategic retreat from Belgium to the Marne.
   Pouring around the British left, von Kluck vainly strove to crumple the line against Maubeuge and von Buelow. Envelopment, as of Bazaine in 1870, was averted only by fierce British and French cavalry charges, and the retirement was resumed.
   Withdrawal was humiliating, but Germany's "defensive" war was the advance of a marvellous military machine, geared entirely for the offensive. Horse, foot and guns were perfectly equipped and trained, an army stiffened with thousands of machine guns, preceded by a cloud of aeroplanes, backed by heavy artillery of unprecedented mobility and power and entrenching machines, followed by field kitchens in hundreds, wireless outfits, field observatories, motor and horse transport, and effective ammunition trains.
   The Allied line swung back across the districts all tourists know so well. The British right under Haig, fighting a rear-guard action, fell back through the Mormal Forest, the heavily involved left conforming more slowly. Late on the 25th the reserve division was rushed from the coast and a determined stand was made on the road from Cambrai through Le Gateau to Landrecies, where the narrow streets ran with blood and were choked with dead and wounded. Stiff fighting developed also at Solesmes, where an infantry division was enveloped and cut its way out. The Guard Cavalry caught the British Twelfth Brigade, and its mad charge was broken only at the muzzles of the rifles on the reserve line.
   Tired when the running battle opened, the British fought from midday of the 21st through the night, without food or rest, retiring eighteen miles. With only emergency rations they fought the second day and through the second night, and retired fighting twenty-six miles. Then without respite they fought again and retired thirty miles to the Somme. But Sordet's cavalry, by forced marches, now helped the British left; and from Amiens General d’Amade and the Seventh Corps reserves had moved eastward and checked the flanking cavalry, giving the exhausted British time to drop in their tracks and snatch a few hours' sleep between Peronne and St. Quentin, and then reorganise their broken and mixed formations, after four days and nights of battle.
   At Maubeuge von Buelow left his heavy artillery and reserve divisions to reduce the fortress. Here the British and French had detached single battalions to reinforce the garrison, which made an heroic defence and held out until September 7th, when the heavy howitzers, their concrete foundations treacherously ready, pounded the citadel and forts to pieces, suffocating most of the garrison. With hundreds insane from their frightful experiences, many complaints have been made of their treatment by the survivors. The daughter of the Prince de Polignac, who fought in the Civil War, wife of the artist and socialist, Count de Chabannes, and a composer of note, heroically endured the siege, attending the wounded. For some reason this talented lady was held a close prisoner by the Germans, and wounded survivors sent to Torgau bitterly complained of the severity and intolerance of their Reservist jailer, Professor Brandes, the naturalist.
   Right along the line, the Germans continued to force the Allies back. A firm stand was made on a line north of Fourmes, by the First and Third Corps, Fifth French Army. At Guise also this army, reinforced, fought back brilliantly, relieving heavy pressure on the British forces retiring from St. Quentin, and luring the Guard Corps close to screened batteries which drove them back and definitely checked pursuit for three days. The Third Army struck the forces of the Crown Prince heavily northeast of Verdun and again on the Meuse, withdrawing across the river and conforming to the line unmolested.
   The end of August found the Allies approaching the celebrated La Fere-Laon-Rheims barrier, with a few obsolete forts and no preparations for defence. Here, if anywhere, the world expected Joffre to make a stand, if Paris was to be saved. To the French Commander, the safety of his army was his first consideration. While the Wurttemberg forces had countermarched wastefully to conform to the antics of the Crown Prince, who was still making blunders north of Verdun, von Hausen, with the three Saxon Corps and cavalry of the Third Army, had pushed south in an amazing march, a wedge which got between and threatened the flanks of the Fourth and Fifth French Armies, when both were engaged. He soon crossed the Aisne near Chateau Porcien below which Rheims was the prize, and von Buelow with five corps was approaching Laon, invaluable as a railroad junction in German hands. Their advance hurried the French to the line where they expected to stand.
   But von Kluck had now marched his five corps across open ground below Compiegne; his cavalry corps had already swept across the Oise through Senlis. The left of the Allies was again in grave danger, and von Kluck was rapidly moving his army around the flank to cut off effectively the lines from Paris. Retreat was again imperative. A splendid natural line of defence had to be abandoned. Rheims was lost, and the direct roads to Paris were unrecovered, while the Allied field armies fell back to a front resting on Bray, Nugent, Arcis sur Aube, Vitry, Bar le Due and Verdun. Their left was on the Paris defences; the line extended due east with the right wing curved sharply north and hinged on the fortress. The line had been bent in and distended where the Fourth and Fifth German Armies had pushed south between Vouziers and the Meuse, passing west of the fortress, through the Argonne.
   Von Kluck’s advance had been magnificent. By forced marches, occupying all the towns en route, including beautiful Amiens, he had given the Allies no rest. His forces had been generally humane in France, except at Senlis, where the rue de la Republique was destroyed. Many priceless treasures were also taken from the Museum, and some citizens were executed because one crazed patriot, in full view, fired a shot.
   During this tedious retreat the Germans had also suffered. At inviting positions along the front the Allies would make apparent stands which sent the systematic Germans through all their textbook formulae of battle. At the final stages the assaults proved the enemy to be mobile units, horse artillery, machine guns in motors, and cavalry acting as infantry, all of which melted up side roads and overtook the main bodies whose retirement they were covering. On the Aisne, the British and French destroyed the bridges and inflicted heavy losses on the Germans as they erected and crossed on pontoons. The British left finally rested at Lagny on the eastern section of the Paris defences, the Germans halting on the Marne.
   Paris had vigorously prepared for a siege. The guns could be heard from the suburbs, and the government had moved to Bordeaux. The labour unions had contributed 5,000 exempts to help the garrison, and men of every class seized axes and shovels until at the outworks a circle of trenches, ramparts and barbed wire, 60 miles across and 200 miles in extent, surrounded the city, to avoid the close investment of 1870. Beautiful suburbs were razed to clear artillery ranges, a light railroad joined the important defences, and in the perimeter droves of cattle and sheep were gathered. General Gallieni had a field garrison of 200,000 men. But the Germans considered Paris theirs. The American Embassy in Berlin was especially consulted in regard to a plan to enable Americans to leave en masse when the city was captured.
   On September 3rd, Joffre, deciding to bring the German line over the Marne, instructed the British to change front by retiring twelve miles, and the Fifth Army also retired from the Marne to the Seine Valley. Completely misled by this further withdrawal, von Kluck moved his Second Corps and Fourth Reserve Corps to the Ourcq, and turned his main columns southeast along the roads through Meaux to break up the left of the "retreating" armies and cut them definitely off from the capital, which would then be open for his reserves and the siege guns already en route, to start investment. With the armies cut off from her aid, and with the lessons of Liege and Namur, the Germans gave Paris a week to withstand the howitzers. Their forces poured over the Marne in triumph, facing heavy losses in crossing, but lured to overconfidence by the fact that the Allies were abandoning the river and the final line that could defend the capital. Where now could the forces stand? For the second time every German army on the vast front united for a combined offensive. This time they were confident of a crushing decision. And von Kluck, ignoring the "shattered" British, was making an oblique march across their front, closing in to drive, like a battering-ram, at the weak link between them and the French left, to crumple D'Esperey's flank eastward when the frontal attack was delivered against this Fifth Army by von Buelow and superior forces. Before von Kluck's columns had cleared the river, the British had closed over eastward, their right solidly in touch with the Fifth French Army. On this day German cavalry were at Gonesse, eight miles from Paris, a part of the widely extended mounted forces led by von Marwitz.

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