Lets build the Battle of the Frontiers

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
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Mike K.
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Post by Mike K. » 13 Jan 2003 03:58

Northwest Europe, August 30th to September 5th, 1914

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http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/dhisto ... /WWIs8.htm

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Mike K.
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Post by Mike K. » 13 Jan 2003 03:59

Battle of Marne, September 9th, 1914

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Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 19 Jan 2003 10:22

I'll begin writting the article on Tuesday. I'll be breaking the Battle of the Frontiers up into 4 parts: 1) The French attack - Plan 17, 2) The Battle of the Sambre, 3) The Battle of Mons, 4) The Great Retreat.

I feel that these 4 sections will help best to show the slide from a war of movement, to a static war on the Western Front.

Feel free to continue to add information.

Gwynn

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 24 Apr 2003 09:18

Hey guys, I didnt realise the BEF fell back to the right of Paris. I read time and time again how fast they marched when withdrawing, but the distance on your maps between Mons and near Paris is incredible, they ahd no motor transport for the troops though? and they didnt use trains, as the French did?

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 28 Apr 2003 11:00

As the German advance continued, the Allies quickly realised that they could not hold an exposed position, thus the decision to fall back on Paris was reached, if I remember correctly, before Kluck's thrust in front of Paris had begun. It was a narrow thing, but the BEF and French moved heaven and earth to get forces in position for their counter stroke.

As for this thread, unless someone else wishes to write up the article, it'll have to wait till June when I'm on study leave before I can write it up.

Gwynn

chronos20th
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battle of the frontiers

Post by chronos20th » 26 Jan 2004 18:24

I assume the idea is to write a total account of the camapaign leading up to the marne and including it.

Nice map by the way.

One debate which takes place is;-

had the german armies won their victory at the marne andhad von Kluck not panicked all they had to do was to press home to claim their victory?

Or was von Kluck right when he got a report from an aviator of troops advancing into "the gap" and took the decision to retreat himself.

The "Marne Drama" was a pamphlet and enquiry by the german general Staff in 1916 in which both were asserted, but no one would admit to have actually issued the order to retreat.

it could go either way.
As von Bulow's army advances towards paris, now going e-w, it had outflanked the defenders and was pushing them back. In which case the returning BEF and Lazarec's army would have been ordered divert and rush NE. to try to save Paris and von Bulow can come behind them.

Alternately Sir John french and the BEF gallantly continue to advance inti the gap and seperate Ist and 2nd armies.

What do you think, personally I think it is likely to be the former.

Another thing is that the BEF had marched right of the map and disappeared from theradar, von Bulow was convinced they had been completely destroyed and started to swing left to outflank the end of the french line. meanwhile the attack comes from Paris and he swings his line to deal with them, leaving a huge gap in the line. von Kluck them panics as he sees from an aviator's report that they are returning.

The BEF fell back as far as south of Paris. Hence their "disappearance" .
Another one - Sir John French then wanted to bring them right out of the line as they had been shot up and march them to Cherbourg. it took a flying visit by Kitchener on a special train from Britain to convince him otherwise - the reasons for this have still to be found.

French then visited Joffre's HQ. personally and promised "all that can be done will be done".

General Wilson's plan that a small force could be sent that would tip the balance between the german and french armies came thus about.

I hope this is of some help.

Sources are the Encyclopaedia britannaica article on the Marne, "What If? Great Miltary Turning Points of History" and the BBC Knowledge documentary on the subject.

chronos20th
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Post by chronos20th » 26 Jan 2004 19:30

One other point, sorry about this. On 23rd August von Moltke ordered 1st, 2nd and 3rd Armies to advance west, directly at, and east of paris respectively. ist army would then carousel around Paris sweeping up the french left wing.

Unfortunately the attacks of Crown Princes' Rupprecht and Wilhelm armies around verdun through the modified plan displaced 4th army and 3rd army , following orders to maintain a continouous front. (verdun nearly fell). 2nd swung southeast to follow tthem and Lazarec's retreating french army, and 1st army similarly swung, but by forced marches tried to outflank the French. Von Moltke now accepted a plan of envelopment east of paris, and 1st was now attacked on the flank etc.
Thus the whole campaign arguably revolved on the decision to allow Rupprecht to counter attack. 8)

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 03 Feb 2004 22:40

That counter attack was not part of the original plan, and if I remember, the attack didn't go as well as has been hoped. The French had regained their composure from their retreat out of Germany, and Rupprecht's attack achieved little.

Molke's other flaw was allowed von Kluck and von Below to drift away from Paris. He followed the same thinking as Molke the Elder, in allowing Army commanders a greater degree of lattitude on the battlefield. Fortunately for the Elder Molke, this didn't matter when the battlefield was comparatively small, but when the battlefield is the low countries and northern france, the actions of individual army commanders in taking their own routes lead to the gap between Below and Kluck.

Gwynn

chronos20th
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battle of the frontiers.

Post by chronos20th » 04 Feb 2004 22:18

Yup.
The texts i have say that both sides of the frontier in A-H were heavily fortified, as well as country easily defended, so as Prince Rupprecht got back to the frontier, he started taking heavy casualties as he attack the franch fortified positions.

Also as you say vonMoltke the younger allowed von Kluck and von Bulow to drift away from Paris, von Kluck actually making something close to a 90 o turn. 8) :P :|

Svennie
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Post by Svennie » 05 Feb 2004 21:02

Hey guys,

could some of the experts among you mention some books on the battle in Lorraine, especially the 6th Army of Rupprecht?
I know the series "Der Erste Weltkrieg" by the Reichsarchiv and also "Schlachten des Weltkrieges" but they are hard to come by.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Sven

chronos20th
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Battle of Frontiers

Post by chronos20th » 05 Feb 2004 23:43

The most likely to be available is, and it spells it all out, as it's still in print;-

The Myth of The Great WarJ
John Mosier
ISBN 1 86197 395 0

It may be available in the Netherlands

Svennie
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Post by Svennie » 06 Feb 2004 14:54

Thanks!

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Opinion on failure at the Marne

Post by pchicola » 21 Jun 2004 22:16

Hey guys, I know its been a while since anybody wrote about the marne battle, but anyways here is my opinion.

I think that the main cause for the german failure at the marne can be summarized as the poor logistics of the time. The german 1st army was marching at a pace never seen before in a combat; thus surprising both the allies and the German General Staff.

Von Moltke began realizing that he had a real logistic nightmare in his hands, because he could not find enough roads to fit the advancing corps of the First Army. As well, the supply lines of the German west wing were overstretched and the General Staff did not find a quick solution for this setbacks in logistics.

As consequence, Von Moltke decided to relief his logistic nightmare by ordering four corps of the West Wing to be diverted either to Russia or to serve as garrison in Belgium. (During the Battle of the Marne, General von Kluck stated that if he had had the II and III Reserve Corps, which were stationed in Belgium, he could have plugged the gap between his first and Bulow's second army, and therefore he could have stooped the BEF from advancing to the upper Marne and thus advance to Paris and round the Allied flank.

We have tended to believe in stories such as Moltke's reorganization of forces and of Col. Hentsch ordering a retreat in the climax of the battle to be the cause of the German failure at the Marne. But maybe the poor logistics and the inability by the Germans to overcome it was the main cause for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.

I will be very glad to hear more opinions about this.

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Post by monk2002uk » 14 Nov 2004 10:06

Logistical supply was a problem for the Germans. Bloem, in his book 'The Advance from Mons 1914', describes how supplies of food virtually failed completely. Artillery ammunition was becoming a major problem, though there does not appear to have been a problem with small arms ammunition. He describes the physical effects, both in terms of fatigue and the wearing out of the boots. The prospect of capturing Paris, however, acted as a great stimulant.

Logistics was only one of many factors that coincided with the undoing of the Schlieffen Plan. The plan called for the outflanking of the French Army. Much is made of the wheel inside Paris, rather than around the outskirts as called for by Schlieffen. It is not the fact that von Kluck chose to come inside Paris that is important per se. It is the fact that he came inside the left flank of the French Army, wherever that might be located. This points to a major failing in intelligence. From what I can tell, the formation of the French Sixth Army was hinted at through intelligence reports but von Kluck chose to ignore the evidence. Certainly, his cavalry divisions had failed to do their job on several occasions so the large body of troops that were forming was not detected in a systematic way. Ludendorff, in his account 'The General Staff and Its Problems', lays part of the blame on the failure to increase the number of reconnaisance aircraft before the war. As with General French, however, the problem appears to lie with how the intelligence was interpreted, rather than how little was gathered.

The railways proved to be the undoing of many attacks. The ability to move reinforcements quickly by rail was decisive in countering the Schlieffen Plan.

To get round the newly extended French left flank, assuming it was detected, required superiority of troop numbers. Several factors had contributed to a reduction in attacking strength (and therefore width of attack) on the German right flank. The need to invest Mauberge was one example, as was the effects of the Belgian resistance and the Russian penetration into East Prussia. Von Kluck had been closing the gap with the German Second Army when the flank attack by the French Sixth Army caused him to have to divert troops to counter the threat. The gap between the German First and Second Armies widened to the extent the the BEF and elements of the French Fifth Army could drive between them. At this point, Col Hentsch steps into the picture, but if it had not been him, someone else would have triggered the retreat.

Lastly, but not completely, the interception of German radio messages by the French 2e Bureau, via the receiving station on the Eiffel Tower, gave the Entente forces an important edge in the intelligence phase of the campaign. I think we have yet to see all that this source contributed but there are certainly hints about its importance in Edward Spear's book 'Liaison 1914'.

So, for what it is worth, I do not think that logistical supply was a major, or even a decisive, factor in the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.

Robert

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BM Thiry
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Post by BM Thiry » 10 Apr 2005 19:50

Good morning all
just a input

the best French book about battle of the frontiers
it's a "Must"
Paul Lintier, "avec une batterie de 75, ma pièce" written in 1916

with this link in english :wink:


http://www.helion.co.uk/product.php?xPr ... ec=1601114



Regards
BM
Thiry

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