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RMAMY 
DEFEAT 



By 
nt Charles deSouza 

and 

Major Haldane Macfall 



GERMANY IN DEFEAT 



GERMANY IN 
DEFEAT 

A STRATEGIC HISTORY OF THE WAR 



FIRST PHASE 



BY 

r COUNT) CHARLES DE SOUZA 

nft'O 
AND 

MAJOR HALDANE MACFALL 



FOURTH EDITION 



l I ' 



LONDON 

KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO., LTD. 

NEW YORK : E. P. BUTTON AND COMPANY 

1916 




THE LONDON AND NORWICH PRESS LIMITED, LONDON AND NORWICH, ENGLAND 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Personal Note ix 

CHAPTER 

I. The position of the Germans at the opening of 

the war 1 

II. The position of the French at the opening of the 

war 8 

III. The strategic perplexity produced on the French 

by the opening German moves in the war . 16 

IV. The real and wholly unrealised significance of 

Lie"ge . 24 

V. The real German design in the siege of Liege and 

their hesitations in Belgium ... 33 

VI. The first French offensive in Alsace and its real 

strategic significance 41 

VII. The French evade the German trap in Belgium ; 

lay a trap therein for the Germans instead ; 
and, in their second advance into Alsace, win 
their great tactical victory of Mulhausen, which 
becomes strategically valueless ... 51 

VIII. The Germans, perplexed by the French victories 
in Alsace-Lorraine, swiftly seize an advantage 
and win a great tactical victory over the 
French, which, however, brings about strategic 
disaster to their plans of campaign . . 66 

IX. Joffre evades the German trap in Belgium ; the 
German Generals, rushing to overwhelm the 
French therein, strike their blow in the air, 
at the same time baulking Joffre's counter- 
stroke by their successful concentration of a 
whole secret army 78 



vi GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

CHAPTER PAGE 

X. The Germans walk into the trap laid by Joffre 
for their annihilation, but one of Joffre's 
generals leaves the trapdoor open ; and the 
British are wasted 94 

XI. The Germans, baulked of their scheme to trap the 
French in Belgium, and eluding the French 
trap, and compelled to a parallel fight, seek to 
cut off and envelop the British wing of the line 
and fail ; the British getting touch with the 
French line to right and left . . .109 

XII. After their strategic check at Cambrai the German 
staff resume, more to the west, their envelop- 
ing movement . . . . . .124 

XIII. The Great Retreat 138 

XIV. The Battle of Nancy 152 

XV. Battle of the Ourcq 169 

XVI. The crowning achievement of the Great Retreat, 
wherein Foch completely overthrows the whole 
German armies and saves France at the battle 
of Fere Champenoise 178 

XVII. The overthrow of the largest German army by 

the army of Sarrail before Verdun . . 194 



LIST OF MAPS 

MAP FACING PAGE 

1 General positions of the German Western armies 
at the outbreak of the War First plan of con- 
centration of the five first French armies . . 8 

2. General positions of the German Western armies 

on August 5, 1914 Second plan of concentration 

of the five first French armies .... 16 

3. Position in Belgium on August 11-17 ... 24 

4. " Grand Couronne* " of Nancy and the " Trouee " 

or Gap of Mirecourt 41 

5. The French advance in Alsace and Lorraine, and its 

utmost limit on August 20 .... 66 

6. The German effort against the " Trouee " or Gap of 

Mirecourt, and its uttermost limit on August 24 . 70 

7. Kluck's advance from Brussels on August 21-22 . 78 

8. Battle of the Ardennes, August 21-22 ... 86 

9. Battle of Mons-Charleroi. Position on August 22-23 94 

10. Battle of Mons-Charleroi. Position on August 24 

(morning) ....... 100 

11. Battle of Cambrai, August 26 . . .109 

12. General position of armies on August 26 . .124 

13. General position of armies on August 30-31 . . 138 

14. " Grand Couronnl " of Nancy . . . .162 

15. Extreme limit of Great Retreat. General position 

of Western armies in France . . . .169 

vii 



viii GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

MAP FACING PAGE 

16. Battle of the Ourcq, first day (September 6) . . 172 

17. Battle of the Ourcq, third and fourth days (Sep- 

>mber8-9) . .176 

18. Battle of Fere Champenoise Hausen's attacks, 

September 7-8 Battle of Fere Champenoise 
Foch's counter-attacks, September 9 . . . 184 

19. Battle of Verdun. Position on September 8-9 

Battle of Verdun. Position on September 10-11 194 

20. End of German retreat from the Marne. Position of 

Western armies in France on or about September 
12-13> 1914 204 



THE PERSONAL NOTE 

Lady Day, 1915. 

To add to the torrent of literature or letterpress 
that is being poured out upon the Great War 
demands a profound reason. Were the public 
our own public and the neutral public, above all 
the American public being fully enlightened as to 
the significance of the strategy of this war, and as 
to the prodigious results already achieved, these 
pages would have no excuse. The public, strangely 
enough, for all the vast journalistic effort to 
enlighten it, has not yet fully grasped the strategic 
significance of the war yet it is of the most vital 
consequence to the public that it should so grasp it, 
and no time lost. 

This is not to lay any blame upon journalism. 
It is not the fault of the journalists. The service 
rendered to the public by journalism in this 
stupendous strife is astounding. Journalism is con- 
cerned with the recording of events as they arise 
from day to day ; and this service has been wonder- 
fully performed. But strategy is outside the 
training and ken of journalism it requires close 
study ; and, let us say, for an editor to think that 



x GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

by " reading up " a few text-books on war he can 
grasp the strategy and intention of a campaign is 
as though a journalist by reading up a few text- 
books on medicine and surgery could perform an 
exquisite surgical operation upon the brain. 

Then the English-speaking public has never been 
keenly interested in the reading of strategy indeed, 
the very word strategy at once conjures up in their 
minds a boredom of technical details and of tedious 
manipulation of numbers and armies and com- 
manders and the like. Military and other expert 
writers, writing for soldiers, have increased the 
public distaste for any study of strategy. And by 
consequence the public are content to read the mere 
picturesque accounts of personal heroism or of 
battle written by a good journalist, and to leave 
the significance of the strategy to fighting men. 
The Great War has broken this habit by bringing 
forth two writers amongst us in particular who have 
made strategy and tactics of human interest to the 
public. Colonel Maude has brought his fine gifts 
and deep knowledge of strategics within the view of 
the man in the street, but unfortunately his essays 
are scattered throughout the press. Mr. Belloc 
has had the better fortune to secure a week to week 
rostrum from whence, with consummate skill, he 
has employed all his training in the French artillery 
to popularise tactics written in the most ilium in- 



THE PERSONAL NOTE xi 

ating fashion so that the public has had the inestim- 
able advantage of being able to follow every tactical 
move of the armies in this great struggle from stage 
to stage as each move developed. And it is in 
the hope that the public, so educated, may follow 
and pay serious consideration to the more profound 
significances of the war as a whole, it is in the 
hope that they may try to grasp its strategic aims 
and acts and results, that these lines are being 
written. For and this is of first importance to the 
public to-day it is of vital importance to us all 
that we shall try to look at the war in the large, 
since our future and the destiny of our peoples 
depend upon a thorough grasp of that strategic 
significance. 

It is most important for the public, as it is most 
important for the proper and unswerving prosecu- 
tion of the war to a complete finish, for us to 
realise that Germany was defeated at the Marne 
that she has been a defeated people ever since and 
that at hand is, and must resolutely be carried out t 
her complete crushing as a fighting force. It may 
seem a startling statement to make on Lady Day 
of this year of 1915, that the destinies of Europe 
for generations to come have already been shaped. 
Few at least seem to have realised the fact. It 
may seem, if this be so, as if the journalists and 
writers in general upon the war were strangely blind 



xii GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

and dense. But the point that the public ought to 
grasp is that the destinies of Europe have already 
been settled in France, and that the vast operations 
now pending are but the perfecting of an achieve- 
ment. Let there be no mistake. The crushing of 
Germany may call for a blood- sacrifice far greater 
than her defeat. She is in defeat not vanquished. 
Her peoples are being tricked and deceived. But 
her guiding spirits know that she is defeated ; and 
they are now striving to trick the world into blind- 
ness to that defeat as they have so far tricked their 
own peoples. To crush her will demand perhaps a 
vast and hideous sacrifice. But if she be not 
crushed, the sacrifice of the generations to come 
will be so great and the threat and danger to 
democracy and to the freedom of man and the 
welfare of the world so constant, that civilisation 
will be baulked and set back for ages and the 
good of mankind thwarted and maimed. 

Let us have no misunderstandings about it. 
This is no appeal for vengeance. It is a simple 
statement that if Prussianism, and all for which 
Prussianism stands, whether in Potsdam or 
Timbuctoo, be not smashed and broken here and 
now, this war has been wholly in vain, and our 
beloved dead lie slain in a frantic farce. 

For the public to appreciate this is clearly a vital 
act, To grasp it, the public must make an effort 



THE PERSONAL NOTE xiii 

to understand the significance of the strategy of 
the war. There is no mystery, nothing really 
difficult to understand in it all. To rid it of the 
suspicion of dry-as-dust is the effort of these pages. 
It is the effort of a couple of men who have been 
life-students of strategics, and of Foreign Affairs 
upon which strategics are founded. The heavy 
duties of helping, in what small fashion may be 
granted to me, in the training of men for the Great 
War limits my day ; but in my friend Count Charles 
de Souza we have a student of strategics of astound- 
ingly wide knowledge and skill, and it will be my 
chief part but to make the Englishing of his remark- 
able work clear to the public, and to explain for the 
man in the street what might otherwise be some- 
what outside his ordinary ken. Count Charles de 
Souza brings to his study of strategy that freedom 
from bias which is essential to a judge. His 
researches reveal some startling facts in the larger 
aspects of the war. And if I can assist in making 
his pages clear to the man in the street I shall be 

well content. 

HALDANE MACFALL. 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY 



THE world will soon be full of books, indeed they 
already begin to rain upon us, wherein a sort of 
book-making from official pamphlets, and articles, 
and the like matter, codifies for us in an intelligent 
summary the chief events of the war. The work is, 
and will be, largely done by skilful penmen without 
any knowledge of strategy. It will fulfil useful 
purposes. The following pages bear no relation 
to any such intention. We have made strategic 
notes for our own guidance during the course of the 
campaign ; we have made the most elaborate 
research for the position and acts of every unit 
that has fought in the war ; we have tried to place 
these corps in their positions on the morning and 
the evening of each day at reveille and in bivouac 
and billet. Without the advantage of communion 
with the leaders and commanders, we have, from 
strategic training, sought out the motives for 
strategic acts, and drawn deductions from the 
attempts to execute those acts. This means a 
laborious process which it would be impossible to 
give to the public in detail without boredom. But 



XV 



xvi GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the picture of the war that we here give to the man 
in the street is the result of this complex search 
after facts and truth. The public does not see into 
the workshop it only sees the finished work. The 
secrecy imposed by the commanders, especially the 
French, has not made for ease ; but by dogged 
watchfulness and by his quick grasp of strategy, 
Count Charles de Souza has rarely been baffled for 
long in regard to the position of any unit. 

The strategics of the campaign I shall leave prac- 
tically as de Souza has written them. All sorts of 
theories of the fighting have been given to the public 
as though final ; it will be seen that we have tested 
and found these accounts lacking the support of 
fact. The position of corps on the mornings and 
evenings of certain dates prove few of these accounts 
to be correct. 

Histories of wars are prone to be one-sided, since 
those who write them generally belong to one of the 
warring powers and twist events with a national 
bias. The result is that the strategy of a cam- 
paign is confused, difficult to understand, and even 
when not an affair of stupid ignorance, it is of no 
mental profit to any man to read it. It is small 
wonder, then, that being so close to the din, few of 
even the best educated members of the community 
have been able to grasp the strategy of this Great 
War amidst the general upheaval and confused by 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY xvii 

the wide assault of several nations, big and small, 
who are in armed conflict to-day even after eight 
months of war. 

One inevitably has a bias towards one's own people. 
Impartiality, especially in a period of strife, when 
the existence of one's own nation and of our allies 
is at stake, is not easy to attain. But if one would 
arrive at the strategic significance of war, it is 
absolutely essential to try to attain it. It is possible, 
with calm judgment and a sense of proportion, to 
reach a lucid estimate of the more important 
operations, and so to find the truth ; and, having 
found it, to state it with the courage of conviction 
once and for all. 

We are not here concerned with the political 
aspects of the situation, as they have no definite 
laws underlying them, such as strategy has. Be- 
sides, the history of the diplomatic negotiations 
can easily be reconstructed in detail from a con- 
siderable amount of official documents which have 
been given a wide circulation. Indeed, it is in this 
province, and with rare clarity, that the Press has 
done so remarkable a public service. I will here but 
give a simple review of the outstanding points which 
directly affect the strategic intention guiding the 
war, and so clear the ground for de Souza to confine 
himself to a concise and lucid account of the actual 
struggle, that is to say the armed conflict which is the 



xviii GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

result of strained political action and the inevitable 
end of all national rivalry and ambition. This 
description of the acts of the war will be rid of 
all those details which only confuse the main issue ; 
and thus the way will be simplified for the strict 
impartial statement of the strategic acts of the war. 

II 

To journalism can be paid this great tribute, that 
it has made clear certain basic truths to the wide 
world. There is no delusion, except amongst the 
hopelessly ignorant, that Germany made her war 
for colonial expansion. Germany made her war 
with one deliberate purpose, a purpose that she 
has pursued with dogged resolution and unflinch- 
ing courage and relentless intention for a generation 
World Domination. The chief end of all German 
preparation for war was the destruction of the 
mastery of the English-speaking peoples. All other 
action was aimed at this supreme achievement. 
It was impossible to arrive at this ambition without 
first destroying France. Whether, having crushed 
France, the Prussian intended to take territory from 
her is merely academic discussion and useless guess- 
work. Germany's design was to crush France 
swiftly once and for ever, that she might thence- 
forth proceed to her attack on the English-speaking 
peoples first the British and then the American, 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY xix 

Whether Britain had stood aloof from her war 
with France or not, Germany intended to strike 
down British power. Had Britain stood aside 
Germany's work had been the easier that was all. 
Germany's dogged scheme of befooling America is 
the guide to what would have been her handling of 
Britain. 

It followed that France was bound to bear the 
brunt of Germany's attack. Whatever else hap- 
pened, this was sure. And so it has proved. Russia 
was pledged to come to France's aid ; but Russian 
help could not come soon enough to save France if 
the German plan had succeeded. The entrance of 
Britain did more to help France in these perilous 
days, not only for the prodigious moral effect on 
France, not only for the great service done to France 
by Britain's small army, but by that sea-power 
which has damaged Germany more and more every 
day that the war was prolonged* 

In challenging Britain at sea, Germany tried a 
fall with nature. The Germans challenged Destiny 
or they rushed in where heroes fear to tread. 
Napoleon wrecked his great dreams of conquest by 
wasting his strength in challenging the sea-power 
of a sea-folk, as the Spaniard wrecked his all before 
him. The Prussian is to-day the victim of the like 
conflict with world-forces. The challenge to Britain 
at sea has been his ruin. The German is no more 



xx GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

capable of sea-power than an elephant. Sea-power 
does not come from bookish theories and an elaborate 
organisation ; sea-power is an instinct, arising out 
of the seafaring habit, and is as much compelled 
on a people as the necessity for that people to win 
its bread upon the waters. All the professors, all 
the encyclopaedias, all the admiralty offices, all the 
gold lace, all the submarine murders in creation 
cannot yield it. The master-key to admiralty is 
the sea-genius of a whole people. 

Germany's machine-made effort to master the 
seas is of a part with her machine-made nightmare 
of world-dominion. A people does not become a 
world-empire by the book. World-dominion grows 
out of the very marrow and instinct of a race, and 
needs generations for its building. The German 
genius, but lately freed from serfdom, thought, like 
a parvenu, to become an imperial force by mechan- 
ical organisation. The parvenu needs always to 
be forgiven for his vulgarities ; they are part of his 
energies. But being lately risen out of slavery, it 
was inevitable that her valour should be the valour 
of the slave-folk, not of the master breeds. It was 
inevitable that chivalry should be denied to her, 
and that her wars should be fought foully. It was 
inevitable that she should think her navies to be 
made of master-stuff by shirking battle with her 
enemies' navies and accounting acts of piracy upon 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY xxi 

unarmed merchant craft as being acts of valour and 
of war. It was inevitable that she should employ 
falsehood and treachery in her acts of war, since it 
calls for a long tradition of mastery to rise above 
the habits of the slave-folk. 

Surely history can show no more tragically 
pathetic sight than a people arming themselves to 
go forth and conquer the world, who have not yet 
arrived at self-government a people so lacking in 
master-valour that they have fallen behind the 
leading democracies of the world, and have not 
had the courage to acquire government over them- 
selves ! The German peoples have been gulled into 
political slavery ; but that such a subordinate 
people should march forth to overwhelm the great 
democracies is surely the maddest venture outside 
Bedlam ! Nevertheless, so it has come about. 

However, of prodigious value as the British 
alliance, above all Britain's sea-power, has been to 
France, we must not let our natural interest in the 
British achievement give us a false proportion. The 
fact remains that France had to bear the brunt of that 
stupendous onrush of Germany's vast legions, which 
the Prussians had prepared for a generation where- 
with to overwhelm her, before she could gain help 
on any large scale. So far the world at large has 
probably realised the general state of affairs. But 
we now arrive at a significant part of the crisis in 



xxii GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the destiny of Western Europe which is not gener- 
ally grasped. France not only bore the onrush of 
Germany's legions with consummate strategic ability, 
but she came within an ace of crushing the German 
armies very early in the campaign on Belgian 
soil ; and within a few weeks had not only stalled off 
the German attack, but had defeated the German arms 
in a series of battles that decided the destinies of Euro- 
pean civilisation. In bald terms, with only a small 
contingent of British troops, and before Russia 
could come to her assistance, France had defeated 
and flung back the German armies, had taken the 
initiative, and had brought Germany to a state of 
siege. Further, France, had she cared to make the 
stupendous sacrifice, could have smashed the Ger- 
man armies to pieces. In other words, Germany is 
a defeated country, and at any moment she can be 
crushed. 

It will be said that Germany is not yet crushed, 
and that her crushing may cost more loss of life 
than her defeat. That is perfectly true, just as it 
was true that the crushing of France after Sedan 
required as many months as the disaster of Sedan 
took weeks. It is equally true that Germany's 
defeat is not complete until she is crushed. The real 
danger lies not in the losses that may have to go 
towards her crushing, but in the patching up of a 
peace that will leave her the power to strike again. 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY xxiii 

III 

There is yet another political factor that stands 
forth in this war, not wholly grasped even to-day, 
but necessary to a full appreciation of the war. 

There is a muddle-headed idea abroad that Ger- 
many has, so far, held her own and is in a dominant 
position because she has not suffered any large 
dramatic loss has known no Sedan that not being 
invaded she holds the key to mastery. And, to do 
them justice, the General Staff has boasted this 
splendour to the German people with no uncertain 
breath. But when the General Staff take off their 
coats and put their heads together in secret con- 
clave, they talk no such balderdash. Yet the boast 
has its value, and for a quaint reason. 

The inability of journalists to understand the full 
significance of the strategy of the war was rendered 
still more obtuse by the cunning and unscrupulous 
skill of the German Staff in the manipulation of the 
foreign especially of the neutral Press. But there 
was a more intense blindness and deafness inherent 
in journalism due to the wide Moltke-olatry of the 
military world since 1870. 

Now, of all the delusions of man, perhaps the most 
difficult to cast forth is an " olatry." Whether a 
man love his idols or fear his idols, for some mad 
reason he is as unwilling to test them as he is un- 
reasoning in his worship. And it is significant that, 



xxiv GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

hating Prussia as most of the writers on the war 
hate her, there is scarce one of them that discusses 
or approaches the war except with Moltke-olatry 
upon the altars of his faith. There is scarce one 
who does not write as if Prussia were the Lord of 
War and the greatest of the warrior breeds ; there 
is scarce one who does not reason upon the war 
without looking at it in the terms of Germany. 
There is scarce one who does not reason as if 
Germany held the initiative and controlled the 
movements of the campaign ! 

Indeed, we find even military writers urging 
conscription and the imitation of the German methods 
and system upon us, at the very moment when we 
are giving our life's blood to destroy for ever those 
methods and that system ! 

The fact is that the sudden triumph of Prussia in 
1870 tricked and dazzled Europe. That the Prus- 
sians blundered and botched their way to victory, 
that victory came often against the plan laid by 
Moltke, that Prussian strategy was successful because 
the French strategy was even more blundering and 
botchy, was wholly unrealised. Prussia succeeded ; 
and the world set up Moltke as the supreme 
genius in war, and the Prussian as the supreme 
warrior. So we get all this bombastic drivel in the 
Press about the War Lord and the like, which reads 
pretty childish to-day. Yet the creed has been 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY 



XXV 



gabbled for so long that it seems impossible for the 
writers to shake themselves free of the banality. 
We, and Europe with us, are as responsible for the 
mad conceit of Prussia if so blatant and tragic an 
egoism can be called by so trivial and light a word 
as conceit as is Prussia herself. She came to look 
upon herself as invincible, and, to do her justice, she 
did all that lay in her power to make herself invin- 
cible. But she knew that the vast machine of war 
into which she had converted her people and her 
wealth and industries had this limitation she must 
overwhelm her enemies with a rush, or fall. Time 
would always be against her wherever she struck. 
It was vital to Germany to win great victories and 
crush her enemies at the very outset of the war. 
To see what Europe, under Moltke-olatry, took to 
be the significance of the strategy of the opening of 
the war, there is no need to quote the fatuous 
editors who, last September, made the land ridi- 
culous, but let us take the words of one of our most 
brilliant military writers in this week that I pen 
these lines : " The first of these expectations was 
amply realised " (i.e., great victories at the outset 
of the war). " The strong fortress of Liege was 
completely in German hands within ten days of the 
first shots. The full mobilisation of the German 
forces had not been completed a fortnight when the 
greater part of Belgium was securely held. The 



xxvi GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

capital, Brussels, was entered and occupied immedi- 
ately afterwards. The first French armies gathered 
to meet the shock were borne down in an avalanche 
of invasion. All the six weeks succeeding the forcing 
of the war were an uninterrupted triumph, even ex- 
ceeding what had been expected by the general public 
in the German Empire : the whole garrison of 
Maubeuge, the crashing blow of the battle of Metz, 
the uninterrupted and enormous charge through 
Northern France, to the very gates of Paris, prisoners 
by the hundred thousand, and guns in interminable 
numbers. To crown all, just as the decisive stroke 
against the beaten French army made possible the 
immediate occupation of Paris, with the approach 
of Sedan day, the German population received the 
astounding news of Tannenberg." 

Now it is certain that the German General Staff 
thus desired the German public to read the opening 
chapter of their war. It is certain that the Moltke- 
olatry of the German people so led them readily to 
read it. It is only too well known that the mass 
of our Moltke-olatrous Press so read it. It is the 
object of these pages to show that, on the contrary, 
the Germans went to their doom ; that they lost 
their war ; that the retreat of the French was one 
of the most masterly acts of war in the history of 
man ; that the Germans came near to complete 
and appallingly disastrous defeat at the very early 



MATTERS INTRODUCTORY xxvii 

stages of their " victory " ; and that the invincibility 
of the German arms lay shattered and broken at 
the end of this " victory." What is more, it is 
incredible that the German Staff were ignorant of 
the disaster that had befallen the German arms, 
however much they might strive to deceive Germany 
or Europe. It may be that in the first days 
of their astounding and overwhelming rush into 
France they looked to victory ; but the dream 
could not have lasted a week. Hours before they 
arrived within sight of Paris, the General Staff must 
have sat uneasy in their saddles for these men are 
soldiers, and they are bound to have realised that 
the master-mind and master-will of the whirlwind 
was no German, but lay in one called Joffre, and 
that Prussia had brought forth no man of genius 
to compare with him. They must have realised 
that, except by some stroke of wild fortune, they 
were a defeated people and it is to their credit 
that they so realised their defeat, and with con- 
summate skill prepared a series of positions for 
their retirement so that that defeat should at least 
not become a mad rout. 

I say these men were soldiers. As they rode back 
towards the Rhine from the Great Defeat, they at 
least knew full well that the dream of Prussian 
World-Dominion had nickered out, and that the 
star of Prussia had sunk in the waters of the Maine. 

H. M. 



CHAPTER I 

THE POSITION OF THE GERMANS AT THE 
OPENING OF THE WAR 

A HISTORY of the War of 1914-15, written in 
English or French, must necessarily begin with the 
campaign waged in France and Belgium during the 
first phase of the war, because although it is true 
that the first flames of the conflagration lit up the 
banks of the Danube and that developments in the 
Eastern theatre quickly assumed a decisive char- 
acter, the fact remains that the first and principal 
effort of the aggressor nation was made in France 
and Belgium, and that the destinies of Europe were 
there fought out. 

This campaign, to be clearly understood, must be 
divided into three distinct periods : First, from the 
opening of hostilities to the end of the so-called 
" Battles of the Marne " ; second, the battles of 
the Aisnes and of St. Mihiel and those of Flanders ; 
and third, the war of the trenches, commonly 
called the " siege- war." 



2 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

The first period, naturally, should start further 
back than the actual outbreak of hostilities, as it 
should include such important matters as the 
organisation, mobilisation and concentration of the 
armies. 

The military problem should be looked at, from 
the start, as more directly affecting the two prin- 
cipal and more military opponents in the struggle ; 
that is to say France and Germany. In the long 
run it is true that the scope of operations became 
considerably wider, extending as it did as far as 
the Caucasus, the Dardanelles, and the Egyptian 
plains, not to mention Tsing-tao in distant China ; 
but during the first and most decisive period of 
the war the main factors in the conflict were the 
French and German armies. England, at the outset, 
could not put more than a couple of small army 
corps in the field the Indian contingent, a couple 
of divisions, not landing in France until after the 
end of the first period of warfare. Belgium had also 
but very few soldiers to put in the field, and had 
no time for effective concentration. And finally, 
Russia was not able to make her weight felt on 
Germany until her mobilisation was complete and 
she had properly settled with Austria. 

The German scheme of operations, as is well 
known, was based on the rapid and overwhelming 
defeat of the French. Reading Bernhardi, one 



POSITION OF THE GERMANS 3 

sees that the Germans, or rather that their military 
leaders, did not despise the French army as much 
as might be thought, and that France was clearly 
realised to be their most powerful and resourceful 
foe upon the Continent. 

The German solution of the problem therefore 
lay in the direction of the most effective use of all 
the means at their disposal for the crushing of France 
in the shortest possible time. 

The means at the service of Germany if employed 
with full force were of the most decisive nature 
rapidity of mobilisation and of concentration, and 
vast superiority of numbers. The first rapidity 
of mobilisation and of concentration was bestowed 
partly by the German Constitution, which allowed 
the head of the army to issue mobilisation orders 
without sanction of parliament ; and partly by a 
railway system built entirely for strategic pur- 
poses. The second vast superiority of numbers 
was provided by a larger population and a greater 
centralisation of forces. In this matter Germany 
enjoyed a special advantage, for she had no troops 
to bring out from across the sea from distant 
shores ; whilst France had part of her best fighting 
material away in Africa and in her Asiatic colonies. 

No German, even of the less sanguine tempera- 
ment, could entertain any doubt as to the result 
of the struggle ; and in those busy days of active 



4 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

preparation and hasty diplomatic dealings Germany 
stood triumphant, intoxicated with the conscious- 
ness of her might and the absolute certainty of 
victory of swift and crushing victory. Her people 
had lived on the memories of 1870 ; and since then 
Germany had become even more united, strong 
and defiant. The respect and awe in which she was 
held bespoke to the German recognised weakness 
on the part of her neighbours. Pacifism, to the 
German mind, the desire for universal peace, was 
but a euphemism for cowardice. The hour had 
come. Germany, with a light heart and the ' ' silvery 
laugh of Siegfried," would step over her boundaries 
and overwhelm " effete," " decadent " nations 
with her war-trained millions. Of a certainty, 
amongst the vast and glittering armies which, 
towards the end of July, 1914, poured across the 
Rhine in a westerly flood, there was not a single 
man who doubted for one instant that the end of 
France was at hand. Even the date chosen for 
opening the campaign was of good omen and must 
bring luck to the Kaiser's arms, for was it not on 
the first of August, forty-four years ago, that the 
victors of Sedan and Metz had crossed the frontier ! 
This time, however, in variance with 1870, and 
as the higher command clearly foresaw, the problem 
of crushing France in the shortest possible time 
would only be half solved by the secret mobilisation 



POSITION OF THE GERMANS 5 

and rapid concentration of the German armies. 
The mobilisation and concentration, for instance, 
would not be sufficient to place all the first-line troops 
and an equal number of first-rate reserve formations 
in the west, as at least half the units thus mustered 
through lack of space or of ground on which to deploy 
would have to remain inactive in the rear for many 
weeks, and could only advance to fill up gaps in 
the more forward army corps a congestion due to 
the nature of the difficulty presented by the short- 
ness of the French frontier. From Thionville in 
the north to Mulhausen in the south, no more than 
three armies, each of four or five army corps, could 
be concentrated ; and there were four more armies 
of equal strength that would consequently be held 
back. Furthermore, the French eastern line of 
defences was very strong ; and French concentra- 
tion could be safely effected behind this unassail- 
able line, thus robbing Germany of the benefit of 
her greatest advantage superiority of numbers. 
She would win, of course she had no doubts on 
the subject ; but it might be months before she 
achieved a decisive and complete success ; and 
Russia by that time would have become a dangerous 
foe at her back. 

Such were the views of the German General Staff, 
who, contrary to popular belief, considered their 
war-plan entirely from its technical aspect, and 



6 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

were never influenced by sentimental reasons nor 
restrained by any moral or political considerations. 
Full of their books and the teachings of Frederick 
the Great and of Moltke, they subordinated every- 
thing else to strategic necessity. 

This is so true that the problem we have just 
surveyed had been thought out and solved by the 
Germans long before the war ; and the German 
Staff had made no secret of it. A scheme of strategic 
railways had been elaborated and laid down along 
the Belgian frontier ; and the military writers of 
Germany some of whom were officers of distinc- 
tion had given the widest publicity to the fact, 
and to the aims of Germany in this direction. Fin- 
ally, the points chosen north of Treves for the 
concentration of several German armies conclusively 
proves that the German General Staff had irre- 
vocably made up their minds to violate Belgian 
neutrality ; for the concentration of an army is 
an intricate, lengthy business, and cannot be altered 
without cross-orders, counter-marches, and the 
confusion which results. 

In fact, the German Staff, adhering always strictly 
to strategic principles, omitted nothing from their 
calculations not even the possibility of Great 
Britain participating in the struggle, nor of Belgium 
resisting. The German people and the rest of the 
army, of course, knew nothing of that, as it is not 



POSITION OF THE GERMANS 1 

customary for the heads of the army to discuss 
their plans in public. Nor is the public, untrained 
to reason in strategy, able to draw conclusions from 
even obvious preparations. 

But the weighing of alternatives, which is the 
basis of all strategic counsels, can leave no doubt 
that when the gauntlet was thrown down and the 
Teutonic hosts were sent swarming along the fron- 
tiers of Luxembourg and Belgium, the German 
General Staff were quite ready to face all eventu- 
alities and to modify their plans, if necessary, as 
they went along. Nothing could stop them. They 
accounted themselves geniuses in war, every one 
of them. They accounted their troops invincible, 
and themselves the directors of invincibility. They 
confidently believed that no troops in the wide 
world could stand against the German arms. Even 
at the worst, with Belgium and England fighting on 
the side of France, they entertained no doubt as to 
the result. They had enough resources to crush 
any foes, and alternatives galore to fit any political 
modification that might present itself. Of course 
they preferred to fight France by herself until they 
could, in all ease, transfer their victorious and in, 
vincible troops to some other corner of the earth. 



CHAPTER II 

THE POSITION OF THE FRENCH AT THE OPENING OF 
THE WAR 

AT the outbreak of war the situation for France, 
although terrible and most threatening, looked 
simple enough ; and it was, after all, the one that 
had been anticipated for years, and for which the 
military authorities had made ready. 

War with Germany implied an attack from the foe 
on the frontier which mattered most, the frontier 
which, for that reason, had been most elaborately 
fortified. From Verdun in the north to Belfort in 
the east, close to the Swiss frontier, stood the vast 
rampart against German assault a bastion of 
strength against all surprise. There also lay the 
covering troops " troupes de couvertures " the 
" iron divisions " of the 20th and 7th corps, the 
" Ironsides " of France, fully trained and equipped, 
ever ready for war at an hour's call, not to mention 
other troops trained almost to as high a pitch for 
battle. Whilst these superb armies fought and kept 
the Germans at bay, the other forces of France 
would be mobilised, concentrated, and brought for- 



HOLLAND 




1-Generetl pojtttjons ofthf German Western armies 

at the outbreak of Mir. 
2. - first plan of concentration of the/Lvc/irst/rench armies 

i I French army 



SWITZERLAND 



MAP 1. 



To face page 8 



POSITION OF THE FRENCH 9 

ward to the field of battle. The shortness of the 
front to be defended, as well as its strength, would 
make all this possible ; and, as matters stood on 
the day that the Germans set foot on French terri- 
tory, the immediate prospect was not unfavourable 
to France. 

Even the inclusion by the enemy of the Grand 
Duchy of Luxembourg in the scope of operations 
could not make much difference, as the frontier 
portion of this tiny State where it touches France 
was infinitesimal. It only enabled the invaders to 
attack the insignificant fortress of Longwy, which 
was garrisoned but by a battalion of infantry. 

The Germans derived some advantages by the 
orders given to the French covering troops to leave 
a space of ten kilometres (six miles) between them- 
selves and the frontier. This measure, which was 
taken by the French Government in order to 
show its pacific intention and its strong desire for 
compromise and a peaceful solution, enabled the 
aggressors to seize some important positions along 
the frontier, particularly over the Vosges mountains ; 
also to extend their entrenched lines in Lorraine, 
south of Saarburg and Savern, right into French 
territory. But all this mattered little, and German 
incursions and depredations on the frontier villages 
could not affect the strength and value of such 
strongholds as Verdun, Toul, Epinal or Belfort, 



10 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

or decrease the moral of the finest troops in France. 
The concentration of the French armies, therefore, 
was undertaken on the basis that France alone 
would oppose Germany in Western Europe ; and 
the whole of the French forces, consisting of five 
armies of four to five army corps each, were gathered 
up gradually, to be stretched on a line extending, 
roughly, from Mezieres to Belfort. They were to 
face eastwards. One of these armies, however the 
4th was slightly in the rear, in reserve, west of 
Commercy ; and this was the only indication that a 
strategist would get, by a glance at the map, that 
the French General Staff felt, or knew, that the 
dreaded violation of Belgian neutrality by the 
Germans was imminent ; because, from its position, 
the 4th French army could, without a pronounced 
change of front, proceed to the north as well as to 
the eastward. This it did when the violation of 
Belgium by Germany was an accomplished fact 
and Belgium asked France for her support. Then, 
and not until then, the action of the three first 
armies was extended northwards ; the 5th army 
slipped along the Meuse, from Mezieres to a point 
opposite Fourmies on the Belgian frontier ; and the 
4th army, wheeling slightly northwards, stepped in 
between the 5th and 3rd army on the Meuse. 

But it should be here borne in mind that this 
change of position was not entirely accomplished by 



POSITION OF THE FRENCH 11 

the troops themselves, as, when the plan of concen- 
tration had to be changed, mobilisation was still 
going on. The French Staff merely issued new 
orders, altering the destination of certain units. 
Some of these units had to change trains or return 
to their base in order to pick up a new line. The 
alteration applied to all the branches artillery, 
cavalry, as well as commissariat ; hence the delays 
and confusion often attending the adoption of a new 
plan of concentration under pressure of events. 
That the French authorities were able to accomplish 
the mobilisation and concentration of the troops 
in the scheduled minimum of time was in itself a 
remarkable achievement. It certainly was not anti- 
cipated by the Germans, who had hoped, by their 
hurried attack on Longwy and their swift incur- 
sions into French territory, to confuse the French 
Staff. A more immediate surprise (for they could 
not guess until some time afterwards the thorough- 
ness of the French military arrangements) was the 
unity and coolness of a nation which they had 
thought to be divided amongst themselves, and 
above all other peoples volatile and superficial. 
The Germans, themselves trained most superficially 
in knowledge of foreign affairs, fully expected a 
revolution to break out in Paris. They even ex- 
pected a gigantic mutiny through which Royalist, 
Socialist, Democrat and Republican, by fighting 



12 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

amongst themselves, would create confusion, chaos, 
a regular panic, and thus greatly facilitate the 
already quite easy work of the German armies. 

No nation made sadder mistakes than Germany 
in 1914, nor blundered more fatuously in its cal- 
culations. The beliefs she entertained about France 
in particular were extraordinary they were colos- 
sal in their ignorance and naivete ; and certainly, 
if real Culture implies a total neglect of the history 
of other peoples, then the Germans had Culture to 
the pin of their collar. Setting aside their mis- 
apprehension as to the English psychology and 
character, and their fantastic interpretation of the 
Irish question and of the Suffragist movement, the 
tales seriously spread throughout Germany about 
a nation with which they had been in immediate 
contact for centuries were ludicrous to the point of 
fatuity. In spite of the way in which France had 
recuperated from her defeat and losses in 1870-71, 
in spite of the great and evident progress France 
was making in almost every field of human activity 
and enterprise, she was, according to the German 
view, even to the most learned amongst the 
Germans, decadent and, therefore, ripe for conquest. 
How could such a country a Republic, a demo- 
cracy have an army and bring forth a great cap- 
tain to lead that army ! Was not French admin- 
istration, military and civil, steeped in corruption ? 



POSITION OP THE FRENCH 13 

Were there not scandals enough to prove it ! Even 
on the eve of war had not one been breaking forth ? 
Had not a deputy in the Chamber declared that 
the army had no ammunition ! 

It must be confessed that Germany was not 
entirely to blame for such beliefs, since, apart from 
the public washing of dirty linen so frequent in 
France, apart from the partisan spirit of politicians, 
there were enough French people, of the kind gener- 
ally opposed to Republican ideals and institutions, 
to spread abroad the legend of French corruption 
and degeneracy. But, for all that, the German, with 
his much-vaunted knowledge of history, should 
have realised that a nation that had so often re- 
covered from past defeats and so often astonished 
Europe and the world by its sudden bursts of energy, 
would become, when its back was to the wall, a 
most bitter and dangerous foe. There were the 
instances of the Hundred Years War and of Joan of 
Arc to ponder upon, and the more recent example 
of Rossbach, followed by Valmy and Jena. In the 
Seven Years War France had only mediocrities to 
lead her troops. It had been the same in 1870. But 
in the intervening period, not to mention anterior 
phases, her military genius had shone forth in all 
its lustre. Her whole past had been remarkable 
for her recuperative power above all other qualities. 
And here we come to the greatest surprise in reserve 



14 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

for Germany in this war France has revealed many 
men of genius to lead her troops. They were un- 
known because unadvertised. None of them had 
written sensational books concerning the subjuga- 
tion of Europe and the re-establishment of the 
Frankish Empire ! None of them taught their 
troops the goose-step or the like parade eccentrici- 
ties. None of them advised the Sultan or contri- 
buted loud ringing essays to a subsidised press. 
They worked quietly and conscientiously at the 
mastering of their profession and in the training of 
their troops towards mastery. And on the critical 
day they fell without a flourish of trumpets into 
their allotted places of command. The Commander- 
in-Chief alone was given some recognition from the 
start, but the names of those under him who directed 
the operations of huge bodies of men have only 
become known to the public in order of merit of 
achievement. Some of the greatest feats in arms 
of the war have been performed anonymously ; and 
it is not even certain that the operations of war that 
really saved France and Europe have as yet been 
noticed or will be remembered by future generations. 
Naturally we do not mean to say that all the 
French generals were men of genius. Some were 
to turn out but indifferent leaders in the field. The 
Commander-in-Chief whom the Republic placed 
at the head of her armies, being a strong man, had 



POSITION OF THE FRENCH 15 

begun, before the war, to weed out, regardless of 
politics or creed, all commanding or staff officers 
whom he did not think fully fitted for their work. 
Thus he cashiered five popular commanders who 
were nearly all amongst his personal friends. He 
did so in the teeth of considerable opposition, 
political and social. But General Joffre would 
rather have relinquished his command than have 
kept men in the army on the principle of favouritism 
that had cost France the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. 
However, partly through caution and partly through 
the difficulty of judging the true work of a military 
man in time of peace, General Joffre was not 
altogether fortunate in the choice of some of his 
subordinates, three of whom were given high com- 
mands but proved themselves unworthy of the 
selection not in the quality of honour, as some evil 
rumours would have it, nor even of brains, for they 
were brilliant theorists, but in their leadership in 
action in the presence of the enemy. To put it in 
the people's phrase, they lost their heads at critical 
moments amidst the confusion of battle, and com- 
mitted mistakes the import of which cannot be 
exaggerated blunders and errors of judgment which 
it required all the ability of the really able men to 
redress. 



CHAPTER III 

THE STRATEGIC PERPLEXITY PRODUCED ON THE 
FRENCH BY THE OPENING GERMAN MOVES IN 
THE WAR 

THE strategic situation created by the German 
incursion into Belgium was rather dark and com- 
plicated ; and for some time the French Staff 
knew not what to make of it nor what to expect 
from an enemy so unscrupulous an enemy, more- 
over, who possessed the initiative. 

As it was, rumours came of a German occupation 
of Basle in Switzerland. Strong bodies were 
stationed in the neighbourhood along the right 
bank of the Rhine. They might cross Upper 
Alsace and make a dash for Belfort, the nearest 
French stronghold to the German frontier. There 
was no denying, however, that the threat in the 
north was more serious, and would increase in 
danger if the Germans succeeded in overawing 
Belgium and sweeping unopposed through that 
country. Yet, their movements there taking place 
so far north might have a different significance 
the Germans might simply wish to distract the 



Oste. 




/ _ General positions of the German Western armies 

on the 5 ^ of August /*?/? 
2. - /Second plctn of concentration off fit /tuejirst 

French, ct.rmi.es 



MAP 2. 



To /ace page 16. 



STRATEGIC PERPLEXITY 17 

attention of the French from their eastern line of 
defence, which, when all was said, was the real 
key of the position. This explanation seemed the 
most likely, and later it turned out to be the correct 
one. 

A German attack was impending on Nancy. 
Considerable bodies of troops were massed south, 
west, and east of Metz, biding their time. The 
attack was only to be made when the French, by 
pressure of events, had diverted some of their 
troops elsewhere and had thus weakened their 
line. But the French Staff were not bound to know 
this ; and at such an early stage of developments 
they could not guess the real intentions of the Ger- 
man Staff. They took the safest course by acting 
on the assumption one might say the belief that 
the Germans were going to attack Nancy at once. 

For those who do not realise the importance of 
the capital of Lorraine, or rather of the positions 
surrounding it, it is as well to explain that these 
positions, called " Grand Couronne," command 
the approaches to the fortress of . Toul. This 
fortress lies at the northern extremity of the " trouee 
de Mirecourt " which the fortress of Epinal shuts 
off in the south a gap of 50 miles in the high grounds 
through which an enemy besieging either Toul or 
Epinal could easily pour into France. That is 
what the French Staff meant when they said that 

B 



18 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

a successful attack on the " Grand Couronne " 
and the German occupation of Nancy would be 
fatal to the concentration of the French armies. 
The " camp de Chalons " the Aldershot of France 
would be threatened, and most probably seized, 
by the Germans ; and all the French armies of the 
north would have their communications cut off. 
It will thus be understood that the anxieties of the 
French Staff in the early days of August were well 
founded. Before any other consideration they wished 
to consolidate the threatened position ; and, whilst 
the work of mobilisation and concentration of the 
main armies was still going on they decided to 
attempt a diversion which, if it did nothing else, 
would at least ward off the German attack, and 
would have the valuable effect of causing confusion 
and anxiety in the minds of the German Staff as 
to the French intention. This diversion was 
prepared and launched with some of the forces 
already in hand ; but meanwhile the situation in 
the north assumed a different and more definite 
aspect. 

The Germans had entered Belgium on August 3 
the same day of their attack on Longwy and three 
full days after they had already violated the terri- 
tory of another neutral State ; and the French 
Staff, as has been shown, had proceeded to alter 
their first plan of concentration accordingly ; but, 



STRATEGIC PERPLEXITY 19 

as yet, until August 5 and the attack on Liege, 
nothing further had happened except in the realm 
of diplomacy, the overtures of Germany to the 
Belgian Government at Brussels, and the appeals 
of Belgium to England and France. This interval 
of two days marks an epoch in the history of the 
world. 

In France, from the moment that war was under- 
stood to be inevitable, all eyes were turned to the 
mistress of the seas. Even when the strategic 
situation in Western Europe concerned France alone, 
the uppermost desire of Frenchmen was that Eng- 
land should intervene partly because, not wishing 
for war, they felt that the intervention of England 
would mean peace ; partly for sentimental reasons 
coupled with the almost superstitious belief that 
if war really came, the side on which England stood 
would win. This belief had little to do with the 
actual resources that England could or would throw 
into the balance, nor with the excellence of the British 
army as a tactical unit, which was not yet proved. 
The gist of the matter lay in the complex nature 
of the French or Latin temperament, which is 
rather prone to seek the approval and encourage- 
ment of its friends, and lacking that, is apt to 
become dangerously depressed. In this particular 
case, no doubt, it would be unfair as well as strate- 
gically inaccurate to assume that France, without 



20 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the help of England, would have been definitely 
conquered by the Germans. Such was the spirit and 
soul of France and the genius of her commanders, 
that means would have been found within the nation 
itself to defeat and repel the invader. France had 
deliberately and calmly decided from highest to 
lowest that this should be so or obliteration. But 
and this is the main point it would have been 
terribly costly for France ; it would have drained 
the nation's resources, principally in men ; and 
there would have been a lasting grudge against 
England if she had failed her friend in the hour of 
need. The support of England at first seemed doubt- 
ful. The violation of the neutrality of Luxem- 
bourg took place on August 1. It was a casus 
belli, which, indirectly at least, affected England. 
France was attacked all along the frontier on 
August 2 the declaration of war being formu- 
lated on the next day ; on this day, August 3, the 
violation of Belgian neutrality took place. Here 
the casus belli affected England directly ; but her 
attitude remained unknown until the 5th ; and yet 
the French people, who could now, on technical 
grounds, as the French Staff did, take it for granted 
that England would remain neutral, did not flinch. 
There can be no better proof of their confidence in 
themselves ; but it would have been with a heavy 
heart that they would have faced the foe ; whereas, 



STRATEGIC PERPLEXITY 21 

when the English declaration of war to Germany 
at last came, a great wave of enthusiasm swept 
over the country. With their characteristic quick- 
ness of mind, the French understood the reasons 
which had made England hesitate the internal 
political crisis caused by the Irish question ; the 
Labour unrest ; the spirit of pacifism which per- 
meated even the British Cabinet, of which more 
than one member was suspected of German sym- 
pathies, were all at their height when the trumpet 
of war rang through Europe. Thus it was that 
when, a few days later, whilst events were quickly 
developing in the theatre of hostilities, the first 
British contingent landed in northern France, it 
was given a reception such as few troops have ever 
known in a foreign land ; and, let us here add, such 
as only a truly great people is capable of offering. 
The smart and trim " Tommies " of England, 
worthy descendants of the archers of Crecy and 
Agincourt, were frankly admired and enthusiastically 
taken to the heart of France. 

Once the co-operation of the British army was 
assured, the main matter for the French Staff was 
to co-ordinate, in the best way possible, all strategic 
efforts. The problem, again, had somewhat altered, 
and some modifications had to be made in the 
concentration of the left wing the 5th army, and 
the formations that were later to become the 6th 



22 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

army. But even with these modifications, which 
did not extend beyond Arras and Lille, France found 
herself now with a line of concentration far too 
long for her resources compared with the German 
line of concentration. The isolation of some of her 
forces might spell disaster as in 1870. Yet some- 
thing had to be made not only of British but of 
Belgian co-operation. At the same time, and above 
all other considerations, the French Staff were 
obliged not to lose sight for one instant of their 
eastern fortresses the main defensive line of France 
and the true pivot of the whole scheme of operations. 
Such was the exact condition of affairs on the 
French side on, and after, August 5, 1914, when the 
Germans attacked Liege in Belgium, and England 
declared war on Germany. From a broader, or 
political, standpoint there were now other and 
vaster issues at stake than the mere existence, as 
an independent State, of the French nation. The 
struggle assumed a more general international aspect, 
and the prestige and wealth of Britain, as well as 
her mastery of the seas and her domination of the 
trade routes of the world, were destined to loom 
larger than the more substantial and costly efforts 
of other nations ; but the strategic problem, viewed 
intrinsically, was to remain in essentials (as far as 
the military operations in France and Belgium were 
concerned) the particular domain of a body of men 



STRATEGIC PERPLEXITY 23 

not much thought about until then the French 
General Staff and especially of its head, the gener- 
alissimo, Joffre, who had until the war lived in 
comparative obscurity and was totally unknown 
to the world at large. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE REAL AND WHOLLY UNREALISED SIGNIFICANCE 
OF LIJ3GE 

THE attack and investment of the Belgian fortress 
of Liege had, from the German standpoint, a 
strategic intention of the utmost importance. 

This result had a world-wide importance from the 
mere glamour that arose and surrounded the event, 
owing to its historic defence by the Belgians under 
General Leman ; but its strategic importance was 
wholly and rashly misinterpreted, as is often the 
case at the start of a campaign when the military 
plans and motives of the belligerents are necessarily 
kept in the dark and, indeed, remain shrouded in 
mystery for a long time afterwards sometimes for 
ever. 

It is well to note that all, or nearly all, contro- 
versies about affairs of war dwell on the opening 
moves or plans which are rarely, if ever, explained 
in a satisfactory manner. One eagerly strives to 
know what happened here and there, and what was 
the reason, or the cause, of this or that action or 
lack of action. Generally, of course, the mass of 

24 



Jrtftjharrnu eoneen 
_ J tratinf 

Jrrencn. army 
German army 




MAPS. 



To face page 24. 



SIGNIFICANCE OP LI^GE 25 

people, who take no interest in the military aspect 
of a struggle, are quite satisfied with a simple ex- 
planation of events that seems to give an obvious 
solution. This explanation may be utterly false, 
and in the light of succeeding events may show 
ridiculous. But it has been accepted, and becomes 
one of those convenient and pat commonplaces 
that assures ready acceptance, and helps unthinking 
babblers out of dialectic difficulties. Ask one of 
these autocrats of the armchair : " Why did the 
Germans attack Liege on August 5, 1914 ? " and 
he is sure to answer : " Why, to move through 
Belgium, of course." ... It is the accepted 
formula of the opening strategy of the war, the 
doggedly held dogma of this campaign. Ninety- 
nine people out of a hundred have a settled con- 
viction that the German strategy was to pour 
through Belgium and make for Paris thereby. 
Indeed, to challenge this theory a plan of campaign 
astutely advertised by the German writers before 
the war is almost to risk the strait-waistcoat of 
Bedlam, or to be taken for one of those consequen- 
tial fellows who make a point of opposing all popular 
beliefs. But should you happen to have made care- 
ful notes of the position of army corps, and to have 
gone a little deeper into the first strategic moves of 
the German armies in Belgium, and watched their 
relation to the armies deliberately kept elsewhere, 



26 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

you will be tempted to follow your first question 
by another : " Why did the Germans not attack 
Namur at the same time as they attacked Liege ? " 
And to follow it with yet another and more explicit 
and clear query : " Why did the Germans wait 
until the 20th that is to say, two whole weeks 
to do so ? " The tea-table and the armchair are 
at once upset ; the autocrat gapes at you and, 
mentally reviewing the map that he has so often 
glanced at since the war began, he answers falter- 
ingly : "I don't know." 

After all, dates and the exact position of army 
corps on those dates are very stubborn facts to 
juggle with. 

The sudden bewilderment of the cocksure is the 
beginning of wisdom. The " I don't know " of the 
dogmatist is the proof positive that the popular 
theory, and generally accepted solution, of the siege 
of Liege were wrong. Obviously the Germans were 
not hammering at Liege as one beats on a gate that 
one would break down, in order to " sweep " through 
Belgium ; and that this was the intention of the 
main German strategy when the Belgians scorned 
their ultimatum is a myth of the popular imagi- 
nation. 

Let us deal with the ungarnished facts. 

On August 2, whilst four huge German armies 
concentrated along the Belgian frontier, and one of 



SIGNIFICANCE OF LIlSGE 27 

these armies penetrated through the Grand Duchy 
of Luxembourg as far as the French frontier, the 
German proposals to Brussels for free passage were 
categorically rejected. On August 3 a final ulti- 
matum was presented and a German army the 
2nd army under General von Bulow stepped into 
Belgium, and the Belgian Government made its 
appeal to England and to France, and at the same 
time affirmed its determination of defending its 
neutrality. Therefore when, as is usual in warfare, 
the German commander on the next day, the 4th, 
approaching Liege, sent a summons to surrender to 
the Governor of that fortress, he knew that the 
Belgian Governor, General Leman, had orders to 
resist, and would do so. The same would apply to 
the other Belgian stronghold on the Meuse, Namur. 
In plain terms, the Germans knew that resistance 
would be met with everywhere. It is not for us 
here to consider the speculative value of such a 
position as it appeared to the German Staff at the 
time of the Belgian resistance ; but we are solely 
concerned with the simple fact that this resistance 
altered the original strategic problem as it was 
viewed by the German Staff before the rejection by 
Belgium of the German proposals for free movement 
through the country. In short, the German Staff, 
strategically, could not now simply make use of 
Belgium as a convenient open door. The German 



28 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

military operations could not begin, as had at first 
been hoped, within the French frontier, but con- 
siderably outside of that frontier, in Belgium itself. 
The strategic problem had, therefore, to be tackled 
accordingly. 

This alternative, be it clearly understood, had 
been well weighed by the German General Staff, 
who did nothing except in a most thorough manner, 
and were guided by military rule of thumb rather 
than by moral or political considerations. But even 
political considerations went to strengthen the 
decision of the German Staff ; for, by this time, 
the date of the first attack on Liege, England had 
declared war, and this meant that the area of 
strategic possibilities must be widened. It had not 
been intended to make the stroke through Belgium 
the chief, but the secondary act. But Belgium was 
now suddenly decided upon to be made the decisive 
battle-ground where the fate of France was to be 
settled at once. 

The factor of time, more than anything else, 
dictated such a course, because the original " hack- 
ing through " policy might be a slow process, and it 
could, after all, be picked up again later, if the more 
advantageous alternative failed. 

Everything, however, pointed to the early success 
of this alternative. The spirit of France, of her 
armies, of her commanders, was judged according 



SIGNIFICANCE OF LI^GE 29 

to the standards of 1870. The French Staff would 
submit to the pressure of events and of public 
opinion, which would demand the instant relief of 
the Belgians. With their usual impatience and 
impetuosity the French would rush forces into 
Belgium, and the fate of these armies would in- 
stantly be sealed the Germans were in waiting for 
them. 

This is the true explanation of the German delay 
in the matter of Namur, and the comparative in- 
activity of their centre armies until the 20th of 
August that is to say, several days after the fall 
of Liege. They wanted to " trap " the French, and 
maybe the English army also, in Belgium. And 
they felt sure that the French could and would fall 
into the trap, rush their troops to Belgium, weaken 
their eastern forces, and be overwhelmed. The rest 
would have been easy, and the conquest of France 
would have been accomplished, as in 1870, before 
even Paris was reached. It would be a colossal 
victory, which, at the outset, would give Germany 
the mastery in Western Europe and enable her, at 
an early date, with huge forces, to face the Russian 
hosts on her eastern border. 

It must not be thought that German reliance on 
French preparedness was at all imaginary, and that 
France had not the means necessary for a quick 
advance into Belgium. The early French offensive 



30 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

in Alsace, which started from Belfort on the same day 
that the Germans attacked Liege, is a proof in point. 
Far from thinking that the French were not able to 
enter Belgium at such an early date, the Germans 
had done everything they could to entice them to 
violate Belgian neutrality before they the Ger- 
mans did so. The mobilisation and concentration 
of the first five French armies, despite the change 
of plan forced on the French Staff by the German 
invasion of Belgium, were accomplished on or before 
August 14. The German Staff felt sure that by 
that date a French army of four or five army corps, 
perhaps more, would be well on its way to Brussels 
or Liege. 

There were, as a matter of fact, very early reports 
to that effect. " Six French soldiers had arrived in 
Liege in a motor car." " Many French officers had 
been seen in Brussels a few days after." " French 
cavalry had joined Belgian cavalry south of Huy, 
and also north of the Sambre." " Thirty-two 
trains, full of French troops, had arrived at Tournay, 
on their way to Brussels, through Hal ! " These 
reports, and many others to the same purport, were 
spread abroad between the 6th and 12th of August. 
By whom ? Before answering this question with 
any degree of assurance one would have to examine 
the reports carefully in the light of subsequent 
developments, and also go rather deeply into the 



SIGNIFICANCE OF LIEGE 31 

strategy of Joffre in Belgium in August, 1914, 
which we shall do in due course. Sufficient to say 
that whosoever had spread them had fairly gauged 
the intentions of the German Staff, and was more 
than solicitous for the welfare of Belgium and the 
success of the French arms. 

The Germans, there can be no doubt, believed 
these reports. Their extensive reconnaissances 
west of Liege, after they had mastered the crossings 
of the Meuse, show it. Their expedition to Dinant 
on August 14 shows it. Their carefully entrenched 
positions in the Ardennes show it. Their bomb- 
throwing on Namur on the 14th also shows it they 
thought that Namur was full of French troops. 
Finally, the prolonged inactivity of the German 
armies south of Liege from the 5th to the 20th of 
August that is, for over a fortnight shows it 
beyond question. These armies, under the command 
of General von Hausen, the Grand Duke of Wurtem- 
berg, and the Crown Prince, were of a strength be- 
tween them of fifteen army corps, not counting the 
Prussian Guards and several cavalry divisions, and 
except for the siege of the small French fortress of 
Longwy, begun on August 3, a reconnaissance in 
force in the direction of Verdun on August 10, and 
another at Dinant on the 14th, these huge bodies of 
troops, totalling nearly a million of men, remained 
inactive for a matter of two weeks, thus giving time 



32 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

to the French to collect their forces and increase 
their strength. 

What could have kept them from advancing ? 

Not the resistance of Liege surely, since the place 
was only attacked by the 2nd army under Bulow 
the 1st army under Kluck also lying inactive 
behind it. Not the first French offensive in Alsace, 
which had been defeated ; nor the subsequent 
advance of the French in Lorraine, which the 
Germans had ample means of defeating. 

No. It was not any of these things. The real 
truth was that the Germans were in waiting for 
the French in Belgium. Their plan was to involve 
them there in a calamitous disaster ; and then to 
proceed to the easier task of beating them, of 
finishing them off in detail, in other places. Their 
eastern line would be pierced ; and to the Crown 
Prince's army would fall the honour of marching 
on Paris through Reims. That was the original 
plan of the German Staff ; and it was for this that 
the Crown Prince was placed in the centre and not 
at the extreme right wing. Unforeseen develop- 
ments alone gradually brought the German Staff 
to alter the plan as well as the strategic objective 
of their armies. 

Let us now deal in chronological order with the 
said developments. 



CHAPTER V 

THE REAL GERMAN DESIGN IN THE SIEGE OF LllSGE 
AND THEIR HESITATIONS IN BELGIUM 

IT was on the 4th of August that the German 
columns advancing into northern Belgium by the 
roads of Verviers, Herve, and Vize came into 
contact with Belgian troops. 

This advance had been slow on account of the 
difficulties accumulated by the Belgians on the 
route taken by the German march barricades, 
felled trees, destroyed railway lines, and the like. 
Thus the invaders knew almost at once the 
character of the opposition that would be offered 
by the Belgians. 

The first attack on Liege began on the evening of 
the 5th, after General Leman had rejected the 
summons of the German commander, von Emmich, 
of the 10th corps of the 2nd German army, who 
was given the direction of the movements for the 
reduction of the fortress. Von Emmich, in his 
attack, acted on the principle of concentration on 
a single sector which proves that he had no 

certainty that the defenders would give way at 
g 33 



34 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

once ; since, had the presumption of the Germans 
been such that they believed they could overawe 
the Belgians and rush the place, they would have 
made from the start a greater display of force. 
The north-east sector three forts was attacked 
first, the German infantry trying to get a foothold 
on the intervals between the forts. This, had they 
succeeded, would have enabled them to bring their 
artillery to bear on all sides of the forts. The 
Belgians, however, had thoroughly prepared the 
ground in these intervals. They fought well ; 
and their fire, as well as their counter-attacks, told. 
The Germans suffered great losses ; and retired in 
disorder to their original positions. 

It was after the failure of this attack that the 
Germans directed their attention to the south- 
eastern sector of forts. This action took place in 
the early hours of the morning. It was not so 
advantageous to the Belgians as the first. The 
Germans not only gained the desired footing round 
the forts, but they even entered the town itself and 
thus gained control of the crossings over the Meuse. 

Lie"ge was virtually occupied by the Germans on 
the 6th of August. On the next day they had 
mastered the crossings at Vize and at Huy. From 
Huy General Leman had brought back a brigade 
for the defence of the south-eastern sector. Thus 
the Germans were able to occupy Huy. 



THE SIEGE OF LH5GE 35 

The work for the regular siege of the forts of 
Lie"ge began on August 7. 

Most of the forts resisted well, considering the 
weight of metal brought to bear upon them. But 
in the meantime the Germans could pour their 
troops across the Meuse at will, which was their first 
consideration. 

Now what we want to point out is that the German 
advance on Brussels could have begun there and 
then at the latest on the 9th of August. There 
were no Belgian troops east of the Meuse ; and the 
Be^ian army, like the French, had scarcely begun 
its concentration. In not more than three days, 
taking account of all difficulties, a couple of German 
corps could have reached the Belgian capital. 
They did not do so. Why ? Because it did not 
suit the German strategists to do so. Yet the 
illusion was entertained amongst the allies that 
the Germans were doing all they could to reach 
Brussels, but that each t : me they attempted to 
do so they were hurled back by an extraordinarily 
inferior number of heroic Belgians. The actions 
of Eghezee, Haelen, Diest, and Hasselt, on August 
11 and 12, which were mere reconnaissances on the 
part of the Germans, were magnified into regular 
pitched battles. The fact is that a reconnaissance 
under modern conditions of war is apt to foster 
such an illusion. In the wars of the past an 



36 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

operation of the kind was generally carried out by 
a very small number of troops a few companies 
and squadrons, with perhaps some light guns. 
Nowadays, in a war of millions, the operation is 
not comparatively larger ; but battalions take the 
place of companies, whole cavalry regiments that 
of squadrons, and the force, which may number 
from 5,000 to 6,000 men, is accompanied by a large 
number of machine guns, armoured cars, cyclist 
companies, aeroplanes, and so forth. Thus the 
reconnoitring party is a small army in itself ; and 
if the operation be carried out on a wide front 
which it is, on account of the mobility of its various 
units the impression is given of a numerous army 
on the march. 

Viewed in their true perspective and proportions, 
the " battles " of the llth and 12th of August to 
the west of the Meuse were skirmishes, or at most 
but loose attacks delivered by the Germans with 
the object of discovering the main point of concen- 
tration of the Belgian army, for on the position 
of this point depended the further course of German 
strategy in northern Belgium. 

There was another, and just as important end in 
view but first let us deal with the question of the 
concentration of the Belgian field forces. This 
concentration was carried out according to a pre- 
conceived plan based on the situation and strength 



THE SIEGE OF LI^GE 37 

of the fortress of Antwerp. This the German Intelli- 
gence knew full well. Belgium had only three 
fortresses, and the strongest was Antwerp, where 
was a huge arsenal, with immense supplies ; and 
it could be further supplied by sea. In the Govern- 
ment councils before the war it had always been 
laid down as a principle, indeed as an axiom, that 
whatever happened Belgium must not relinquish 
Antwerp except at the last extremity. Thus the 
more sound strategic principle of initial and com- 
plete co-operation in the military sense with 
the allied armies was laid aside. The point of con- 
centration was selected for defensive purposes near 
Antwerp instead of for offensive purposes near the 
French frontier which would have proved more 
advantageous in the long run. The plan was 
drawn up, apparently, with the approval of the 
French Staff ; but, considering the tendency of 
the modern French school of war to attach little 
value to fortresses as such, one can feel certain that 
Belgian strategy, at the opening stages of the war, 
was little, if at all, influenced by the spirit of the 
French Staff. Or Joffre, who might have ventured 
into Belgium sooner, adopted an alternative which 
suited the Belgian plan of defence. This alterna- 
tive was risky ; but there could be no other as 
long as it could not be proved that Antwerp was 
of no value in the Belgian system of defence. 



38 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Later on we shall see what this alternative 
was. 

Let us explain now what was the second objective 
of the German reconnaissances to the northwards 
of the Meuse on the llth and 12th of August. The 
false reports already mentioned in regard to the 
generally looked for, and much hoped for, advance 
of the French into Belgium gave the Germans the 
idea that, as early as the 9th or 10th of August, 
French troops were on their way to Brussels. It 
was known, as a matter of fact, that French cavalry 
had crossed the Belgian frontier on the 6th, and a 
skirmish had taken place somewhere at the opening 
of the Ardennes forest. The Germans, therefore, 
wanted to test the accuracy of these reports about 
the French being in force in Belgium, for the severity 
of the French military censorship was such that a 
couple of French army corps or more might be 
concentrated in Belgium alongside the Belgian 
army without the Germans being the wiser. This 
course of action on the part of the French, as has 
been said before, would have suited the German 
strategists, since they were looking and hoping for 
it ; and they firmly believed that such a concentra- 
tion was actually taking place, but they were bound 
to make sure before venturing upon measures which 
might prove abortive. It was mainly with this 
intention of discovering whether the French were 






THE SIEGE OF LlfiGE 39 

in strength in Belgium that the German commanders 
spread their reconnoitring forces over such an expanse 
of ground. The result was disappointing, and rather 
perplexing no French troops were met with 
north of the Sambre. Then, and not until then, 
the German Staff began to doubt whether French 
troops in important numbers were in Belgium 
at all. This, to them, seemed incredible, precisely 
on account of the point of concentration for the 
Belgian army having been selected so far north. 
The most efficient Belgian resistance came from the 
direction of Aershot and Louvain. In the south 
there were only a few troops. Surely the Belgians 
would not be left isolated by their allies, the French ! 
Or did it mean that the English army was already 
landing in Belgium, and would come and fill the 
gap between Brussels and the French frontier ? 
Reports to that effect were also in circulation. 

It suddenly occurred to the German Staff that, 
after all, French troops might have entered Belgium 
in large numbers, but not necessarily that they 
might have reached Brussels, nor even crossed the 
Sambre as yet. So another reconnaissance in force 
was undertaken, on August 13, 14, in the direction 
of Dinant. This time French troops were met. 
Three battalions of Jaegers carried the town in the 
teeth of a strong opposition. On the next day a 
large French force, with field artillery, delivered a 



40 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

counter-attack and retook the town. From the 
fierceness of this attack, and principally from the 
number of field batteries employed by the French 
the Germans had only machine guns the German 
Staff deduced that a general French advance had 
begun in Belgium and they shaped their strategy 
accordingly. 

But before going further into the developments 
on Belgian soil it is necessary, in order not to lose 
the sequence of events on the whole front of opera- 
tions, to give an account of one of the initial moves 
of General Jonre, which will make clear to all the 
true character of his strategy. 




Jrfap to dLujtntte 

the ' Grand Couronni 
of jVa,nev 
< t/U "Trvu.ee"; or 
Gap. 0fJfi 



SWITZERLAND 



MAP 4. 



To face page 41. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE FIRST FRENCH OFFENSIVE IN ALSACE, AND ITS 
REAL STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE 

THE first important move on the French side was 
the offensive in Alsace. 

At the beginning of this war the French suffered 
from two grave dangers of sentiment the passion- 
ate desire for " the lost provinces " of Alsace and 
Lorraine and the intense feeling for Belgium. To 
wage France's war compelled supreme qualities of 
will upon the director of her strategy to withstand 
these two dangers. It must be remembered that 
the heroism of Belgium and the passion for Alsace 
tore at the heartstrings of the whole people, and 
that any act of the higher command which seemed 
to neglect the relief of either of these realms of 
the people's imagination was bound to be severely 
criticised by the nation as a whole. And the German 
Staff understood this full well and calculated upon 
it. The sacrifice of the strategic value to the senti- 
mental value had wrecked France in 1870 ; and 
that sentimental danger was tenfold more powerful 
now. 

41 



42 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

The strategic reasons for this first French move 
into Alsace, as well as its great moral significance, 
have not been perfectly understood. It should be 
remembered that this offensive was launched from 
Belf ort on the day of the first attack on Liege. It had 
been thought out and prepared before the German 
incursion into Belgium, and, therefore, it was not 
intended at first as a diversion to the German 
" coup " at Liege. It had a far more vital intention. 

The position of the French Staff on the opening 
days of the war was precarious on account of the 
German threat against Nancy at a moment when 
French mobilisation had scarcely begun. The 
French positions, called " Grand Couronne," were 
no doubt very strong, as they had been carefully 
prepared since the year before, when General Joffre, 
being Chief of the Superior Council of War, had 
determined, in spite of the experts, to base all future 
plans of concentration on the assumption that the 
positions about Nancy could be held against any 
attack. Now, however, it seems that at the outset 
of the campaign General Joffre did not feel so 
confident; and subsequent events were to show 
that his uneasiness, if he had any, was not without 
cause. 

In that light the first French offensive in Alsace 
must be viewed. At the time that it was executed 
Joffre had not yet made his mark ; and his capa- 



FRENCH OFFENSIVE IN ALSACE 43 

bilities could not be fully gauged. Many were those 
who, knowing how to make war better than the 
great and incomparable chief, criticised this move- 
ment in the most slashing spirit. They declared 
that Alsace would have been better left alone ; that 
the French must subdue their feelings about the 
" lost province," ; that the decisive quarter of the 
war was in Belgium ; that only in Belgium could 
Alsace-Lorraine be reconquered. The military side 
of the problem was left severely alone. No one 
seemed to realise the danger that threatened the 
whole plan of French concentration, nor that the 
ultimate fate of Belgium, of France herself, and the 
whole course of the Allies depended on the absolute 
security of the French eastern line of defence. 

When a commander like Joffre undertakes some 
move, he considers, he weighs everything, taking 
into account even the possible failure of the move, 
and makes provision for a possible disaster. In the 
hands of such a leader of men a country is safe, 
and, given proper support on the part of the nation 
and of his subordinates, he must accomplish great 
things. 

It would be no exaggeration to say that General 
Joffre started the campaign on the supposition that 
all his initial moves might fail ; thus it was that he 
always found himself with sufficient reserves to 
redress the balance and to lead the invaders to their 



44 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

doom at the Maine. In his own spirit everything 
that he undertook should be viewed. Thus his first 
offensive in Alsace, which, strategically, was a 
wonderful stroke, practically settled the whole 
course of the campaign, without anyone, and least 
of all the Germans, being aware of it at the time nor 
probably since ! The moral impetus it gave to the 
French troops, as well as the tactical redistribution 
which it compelled upon the Germans, were the 
main and all-important advantages gained through 
it, not counting the postponing by the Germans of 
their attack upon Nancy, an attack which, if it had 
come sooner, would have been the end of everything 
for France, and probably of her Allies as well. So 
an operation which in itself had no importance, 
and which failed materially (or tactically), had 
nevertheless all the weight and consequence of a 
decisive victory in the strategic balance. 

It remains to be seen how it was done and why, 
whilst triumphant in its strategic results, in its 
tactical execution it miscarried. And it is interest- 
ing to compare it with the French tactical success at 
Mulhouse later on, which, strategically, was a failure, 
as we shall see further on. 

First of all it should be realised that, at the early 
stage of developments when it was undertaken, in 
order to stop the Germans from massing, there was 
practically nothing else for General Joffre to do. 



FRENCH OFFENSIVE IN ALSACE 46 

The point from which the column started was nearest 
the French centre of concentration to the German 
frontier ; it was also more easily and more quickly 
reached by its quota of mobilised men, as it is the 
southernmost position, and it had not been affected 
by the change o" the general plan of concentration 
consequent upon the German invasion of Belgium. 
So that even if General Joffre had been quite an 
ordinary commander, it was the most natural and 
obvious thing for him to do. The wonder is that 
the Germans, so well informed as to the arrange- 
ments and resources of their opponents, and with a 
military map of France before them, did not expect 
anything of the kind, and were consequently quite 
taken unawares ! This in itself shows how confident 
they felt that they had distracted the attention of 
the French Staff northward, and how eagerly their 
own attention was fixed upon the central portion 
of the French fortress-barrier. The concentration 
of their own troops in that quarter shows it also. 
They had several army corps in the region of Metz ; 
several more in or near Strasburg, but only a thin 
screen of advanced troops in the Vosges and Upper 
Alsace. A larger number, it is true, were gathering 
along the right bank of the Rhine, near Basle, but 
these were really mobilised elements from South 
Germany on their way to Strasbourg or Metz, by 
way of Neu Brisach and Schlegstadt. Here was 



46 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

another opportunity for an ordinary commander to 
strike a swift and effective blow. Since the opening 
of hostilities the French flying men had been busy, 
and they had noticed the relative weakness of the 
Germans in Upper Alsace. Joffre resolved to cut 
off these detachments and, if possible, to gain con- 
trol of the bridges over the Rhine, and to pin down 
in that region such German troops as were on their 
way northwards to increase the German strength 
about Nancy. The move, whether successful or 
not, would have the further effect of weakening 
the German centre, which was inordinately strong, 
particularly in the region opposite Nancy. 

What ensued is well known. 

The French crossed the frontier on the 7th of 
August, took the Germans by surprise at Altkirch, 
routed them, and entered Mulhausen in triumph 
on the heels of the fleeing Germans. France was 
unduly elated by the event ; and as depressed after- 
wards by the result of the German counterstroke. 

Now this change of mood, which was reflected 
amongst the Allies, and provoked a storm of hostile 
criticism, was caused by the unmilitary habit of 
judging a manoeuvre or a battle by its material and 
local aspect. The French had advanced, and had 
been immediately driven back again ; and it looked 
as if they had uselessly squandered forces that they 
might better have employed in Belgium. As the 



FRENCH OFFENSIVE IN ALSACE 47 

Germans had hoped and longed for, the attention 
of the world was riveted on the hapless Belgians. 
But the greatest injustice done by the critics to the 
French was to forget that, at the moment of the 
offensive in Alsace, France was still in the throes of 
mobilisation ; she was not as yet halfway through 
with her work of preparation ; her line of concen- 
tration in the north stood off a long way from the 
point where the Germans were in contact with the 
Belgian forces. All this apart from the fact, not 
realised at the time, that the Germans were 
expecting, and hoping for, a hurried premature 
French advance into Belgium, and making ready 
for it with a smashing blow. 

Materially, and locally, the French manoeuvre in 
Alsace failed for two reasons. 

First, the too great impetuosity of the French 
troops, including the officers themselves, when, 
elated by the fact that they had at last crossed the 
frontier and set foot in their beloved province, they 
attacked, or rather flung themselves, at random, on 
the German entrenchments at Altkirch. Another 
French column, going up by Thann, had been set 
the task of cutting off the retreat of the Germans at 
Altkirch. But the frontal attack, being delivered 
too soon, the enemy was able to extricate himself 
from his dangerous position. In this the Germans 
were further helped by another detachment, which, 



48 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

hurriedly issuing from the forest of Hard, attacked 
the French in flank as they advanced on Mulhouse. 
Some German troops, quartered in the town itself, 
took part in the severe action which developed west 
of Mulhouse ; and, thus supported, the main 
German body was able to retreat in good order. 
The German tactics were admirable ; had the French 
been as good the Kaiser's arms would here have 
suffered at the outset of the campaign a serious 
disaster. Yet, once the French were in possession 
of Mulhouse, there was still a chance for them of 
winning a considerable victory, if the officer in 
command a general of high degree had grasped 
the situation better and thoroughly. 

This brings us to the second reason for the French 
failure (in the tactical sense) of the first offensive 
in Alsace. The commander in question did not 
gather up his forces immediately, as he should have 
done, and thus made no provision against the Ger- 
man counterstroke, which he should have foreseen. 
Well served by their spies, the Germans did not wait. 
They struck quickly. Troops came down in the 
night from Neu Brisach, others crossed the Rhine, 
and it was a miracle that the French division in 
Mulhouse was not surrounded. Even then the 
French commander had still time, whilst he resisted 
with his main body on the heights to the south of 
Mulhouse, to bring over the troops left at Altkirch 



FRENCH OFFENSIVE IN ALSACE 49 

and to execute a flank attack on the Germans at 
Cernay. Seeing how well the French troops stood 
their ground under the pressure of superior numbers, 
and what were the German losses, particularly near 
Cernay, the victory for the French would have been 
certain had the reserves from Altkirch been brought 
up in time. The opportunity was lost, and the 
French retreated, the safest course to adopt under 
the circumstances and in face of the accumulating 
strength of the enemy. 

Such was, in its broad tactical outline, the first 
battle of Mulhausen a most sanguinary action, or 
set of actions, in which the Germans tasted for the 
first time the bite of the French field guns and the 
sting of their bayonet charges. The Germans could 
certainly claim a victory and a few captures. But 
their losses, for an engagement of this kind, were 
severe. At or near the village of Cernay alone they 
buried 800 of their slain. 

From the strategic point of view the operation in 
itself had the desired effect, and therefore it was a 
success. The German Staff, startled and nonplussed, 
thought that the French were far more ready for 
offensive operations than they were, and they kept 
pouring down German troops from the north, there- 
by weakening their centre, and so delayed their 
contemplated attack on Nancy. Their movements 
were easily followed by the French air-craft, which 

D 



60 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

at the beginning of the war, were far more active 
than the German. And General Joffre was enabled 
to pursue and complete the concentration of his 
armies without undue anxiety. For this reason 
alone, if for no other, the first French offensive in 
Alsace can well be considered as one of the decisive 
strokes of the war. 

The cautious retirement from Alsace shows 
further the true character of the strategy of General 
J off re, who was determined to resist all sentimental 
compulsion in favour of sound strategic ends. 

So far, then, the Germans had calculated on the 
Belgian sentiment luring the French legions away 
from the fortress frontier into their Belgian trap. 
Knowing, however, the lure of Alsace, they were 
now being tricked by calculating upon it. 






CHAPTER VII 

THE FRENCH EVADE THE GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM ; 
LAY A TRAP THEREIN FOR THE GERMANS INSTEAD J 
AND, IN THEIR SECOND ADVANCE INTO ALSACE, 
WIN THEIR GREAT TACTICAL VICTORY OF MUL- 
HAUSEN, WHICH BECOMES STRATEGICALLY 
VALUELESS 

THE full concentration of the five first French 
armies was accomplished on August 14, and that 
date marks the beginning of the operations on a 
large scale. 

There were, in the western theatre of war, two 
main spheres of activity. First, that of Belgium 
and Northern France ; second, that of Alsace- 
Lorraine and the Woevre region. The operations 
in each sphere were of such magnitude that, although 
connected strategically, it is impossible to give a 
clear account of the whole at the same time in a 
single narrative. For the sake of clearness it is 
therefore necessary to deal with each region in turn 
separately, but they must not, naturally, be con- 
sidered as different periods of time. 

Now, to understand the strategic significance of 

this war, it is essential to remember that the cam- 
si 



52 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

paign was one and whole. The enormous numbers 
employed were just as much employed in what 
one may call one great battle as in former days of 
battle, but we get divisions taking the place of batta- 
lions, and consequently we get their movements 
taking weeks where aforetime they took days or 
even hours. To grasp this is vital to a true survey 
of the campaign as a whole. And we shall see the 
consequences of this as the campaign becomes more 
intense along the Marne. For instance, where 
a movement in a Napoleonic battle saw the troops 
at the end of that stroke exhausted by twelve 
hours' fighting, we to-day in these vaster actions 
must remember a movement when completed as 
having put as much as a week's continuous fighting 
upon the troops as the new measure of fatigue. 

It has been customary, up to now, in surveying this 
Great War, in more or less loose and disconnected 
narratives of the war, to commence with the great 
acts that unfolded themselves after Liege, on the 
Belgian plains and northern French frontier 
and this with utter disregard to dates and the 
chronological sequence and true strategy of the 
campaign. Herein lies the cause of so much con- 
fusion in the public mind and even in the brains of 
those who have quite sincerely endeavoured by 
means of lectures and newspaper articles to enlighten 
the world as to the real significance of the great 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 53 

happenings that we are witnessing. Quite apart 
from the dramatic appeal of the German rush into 
France from Belgium, dominating the public mind ; 
quite apart from the utter lack of training and 
capacity for strategic vision of the journalists who 
naturally see only very obvious things in war, 
there were, as has already been shown, a complex 
series of conditions which tended to confuse the 
issue the national sentiments about Belgium and 
the "lost provinces," the arrogant publication by 
high Prussian officers of scores of books in which 
the strategy for the conquest of France was openly 
laid bare in elaborate and confident plans (generally 
through Belgium), plans which the energetic jour- 
nalist could " read up," but as to which he had 
not the strategic training and vision to warn him 
might be deliberate blinds to turn the French com- 
manders' minds from the real German strategic 
intention ; and the like. Public opinion through- 
out Europe as to how Germany would conquer 
France had been created by Germany before a shot 
was fired and a man sees what he goes out to see. 
In short, the public confusion was, and is, due 
to the fact that the political and sentimental have 
overshadowed the strategical in this campaign to an 
uncommon degree in the public vision in face of, 
and in spite of, the all-compelling fact that the 
directors of the French strategics, like true pro- 



54 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

fessional makers of war, have been astoundingly 
uninfluenced by political or sentimental considera- 
tions, and have by their dogged and loyal adherence 
to strategic necessity achieved a constant tide of 
victory over their enemies a tide of defeat for 
Germany that has never been turned from the 
day that war was declared. 

It is wholly in the public imagination that the 
delusion exists that certain strategic moves have 
been for a political or sentimental reason, whilst 
the high command on either side, but more parti- 
cularly on the side of the Allies, has been striving 
with all its will to keep all sentimental or political 
considerations out of its military calculations. 
For France, without such adamant stoicism in its 
great leader, the strategic problem could not have 
been handled successfully ; and France, and Eng- 
land perhaps, might by now have been under the 
heels of the Prussian. 

Yet, with that curious discounting of facts, which 
is no great voucher for the mental balance of 
mankind, the majority, including some brilliant 
penmen, keep to the fallacy of a scientific war waged 
on, and influenced by, political and sentimental 
principles, thus diminishing the professional value 
and strategic acumen of their own leaders ! 

We have shown in the previous chapter how 
General Joffre doggedly fought shy of all sentimental 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 55 

appeals how he confined himself in the period of 
preparation to a diversion in favour of completing 
his scheme of concentration, and how he did not 
hesitate to withdraw from Upper Alsace on to a 
sound strategic line. In other words, whilst Joffre 
is moved by intense and passionate love of France, 
and is as fiercely intent on winning back the " lost 
provinces " as any Frenchman living, whilst he is 
as keenly sensitive to the sufferings and heroism 
of Belgium as any Belgian, the moment he makes 
war he becomes the absolute soldier, and to the 
true soldier the strategic act is the sole act that will 
win what he desires. 

Having made his first advance into the " lost 
provinces," and having withdrawn acts of pure 
strategy that were misunderstood for acts of senti- 
ment by the Germans quite as much as by the rest 
of the world, indeed it is likely enough that Joffre 
wished that it should be so mistaken suddenly, 
as if to contradict his real self, as if, after all, he 
put a moral and political premium on the speedy 
reconquest and occupation of the " lost provinces," 
Joffre renewed the diversion on a still larger scale, 
seemingly abandoning the hapless Belgians to 
their fate ! 

Knowing the facts and realising the strategic 
reasons of this move and grasping its decisive effect 
on the whole campaign, one cannot read or listen 



56 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

to the opinions widely entertained upon it without 
a sense that a great wrong, a shocking injustice, 
has been done to the great strategist who might 
well be termed the saviour of Europe. He is said 
to have gone to Alsace and to Lorraine in order to 
provoke a rising of the people when, on the contrary, 
for months his officers have had orders to discourage 
any attempts at a civil outburst ! All sorts of causes 
have been sought out in order to explain the early 
advance of the French eastern armies into German 
territory except the true one. And no effort has been 
made, on the other hand, to explain with accuracy 
strategic accuracy the delay in the matter of the 
French advance in Belgium ! Even after the publica- 
tion of the terse and clear official account issued by 
the French Staff, entitled " Six Months of War," the 
same erroneous opinions are persisted in as if they 
were articles of faith high and above the supreme com- 
mand of the field forces ! Yet apply to these futile, 
if dogged, opinions the damning evidence of dates, 
and of the positions of corps on those dates, and they 
crumble to pieces. But perhaps they are an excuse 
for the budding writer to leave out of account those 
great operations, of such vital issue that they 
mattered most of all, and to focus his pettifogging 
interest and that of his readers upon the more 
theatric and kaleidoscopic events of the war. He 
knows nothing of, or cares little for, the eastern 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 57 

pivot of the campaign, and willingly imagines that 
it has been comparatively bare of incident ; he 
prefers to think that the " German avalanche," 
the whole of the Kaiser's legions, burst through 
Belgium, driving before them, like an irresistible 
flow, their " defeated " opponents, until something 
he knows not what stopped short this " astound- 
ing " progress " at the very gates of Paris " ! 
Think of it ! Here we have a vast battle in which 
the multitudinous number of the slain was larger 
than that of any action of the campaign, with, 
perhaps, the exception of Ypres in the second stage 
of the war a battle which was the most murderous 
and the most sternly disputed in the whole course 
of the campaign, yet a battle which will for ever 
receive but the scantiest attention if any attention 
at all! 

But we are not here concerned with the merits of 
particular combatants . The strategic problem alone, 
in its true aspect, is here under our consideration. 
We want to show the real balance of events, east and 
west, regardless of national preferences. We cannot 
do so, as we have seen, in a continuous narrative 
of the whole phase ; so that once the preliminary 
operations have been reviewed, we are bound to 
start with the first operations on a large scale 
attempted by France. 

But first we must show the true position of the 



58 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

French Staff in relation to Belgium ; and state, 
once for all, the reasons, strategic and otherwise, 
which delayed the movements of the French left 
wing and centre armies, and incidentally prevented 
General Joffre from walking blindly into the trap 
set for him by the Germans in Belgium. 

The strategic principle to act upon in offensive 
operations, meant to be decisive, is to obtain supe- 
riority of numbers. This, General Joffre on the 
14th of August, by which date his first five armies 
had finished their concentration, could not do at 
any point least of all in Belgium. But acting on 
a miscalculation of the enemy's forces a miscalcula- 
tion the cause of which we shall explain later on 
he hoped to be able to do so as soon as the redis- 
tribution of his left wing, consequent upon the 
co-operation of the British and Belgian forces, had 
been accomplished. 

Here we must glance at the alternative that Joffre 
had adopted for the prosecution of military action 
in Belgium. This alternative in its main outline 
had been suggested to him by the position of 
the point selected for the concentration of the 
Belgian field forces, as well as the configuration 
of the country on which his left wing was to 
operate. 

It consisted in waylaying the German right wing 
west of the Meuse in other words, in reversing 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MTJLHAUSEN 59 

against the Germans the situation that they were 
attempting to create for the French ! Good ad- 
vanced work and a great display of the mobile 
French field-guns would bring the Germans on to 
the point ; they would be " trapped " instead of the 
French, and smashed ; and the destinies of Europe 
or rather of the German Empire would be settled 
on the plains of Brabant, where many another war 
had been decided before. But in order to succeed 
in this ambitious, but not unreasonable, project 
General Joffre must first of all obtain superiority 
of numbers, so as to make the victory swift and sure. 
This superiority he might obtain through the British 
army and the Belgians ; but to make it more cer- 
tain General Joffre, not being fully informed as to 
the real and full strength of the Germans in all 
quarters of the field, calculated upon two other 
factors or, rather, upon a double factor and this 
brings us to the keystone of the general offensive in 
Alsace and Lorraine. 

It was taken for granted by those who took some 
interest in these operations that the French had 
massed nearly all their strength at the opening 
phase of the war in the region of Alsace and Lor- 
raine ; that their armies there were huge in com- 
parison with those on the Belgian frontier, when, 
as a matter of fact, the number of army corps given 
to Generals Pau, Dubail and Castelnau to execute 



60 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the great move in Alsace-Lorraine was less than 
half that of the northern and western armies. 

By the 14th of August, when the second offensive 
on the eastern frontier began, there were fifteen 
French army corps ready along the Belgian frontier, 
and before the 18th both Dubail and Castelnau's 
commands were depleted of an army corps each to 
reinforce the 5th army commanded by Larenzac in 
the north, to which were further added the Algerian 
division, the Morocco division and an extra cavalry 
corps. General Joffre might even have had in the 
north a new army, the 6th, if the nucleus forma- 
tions of that army had not been collected as far 
south as Compiegne, in order to leave the com- 
munications of the British army entirely free, at 
least during the period of concentration. 

On the eastern frontier Generals Castelnau and 
Dubail had the equivalent of six army corps be- 
tween them, and General Pau not half that number. 
This made nine army corps, including reserve 
divisions ; whilst the total of army corps in the 
north on August 20, excluding the British army, 
was eighteen ! But this accumulation of forces was 
not sufficient ; and since General Joffre could not 
assume offensive operations in Belgium until the 
arrival of the British troops, he thought he would 
make the most of the intervening period by trying 
to weaken as much as possible the German northern 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 61 

armies. This was the main reason for the early 
French advance in Lorraine and Alsace. It was 
hoped by the French Staff that this move, coming 
on the top of the first offensive in Upper Alsace, 
would puzzle the Germans, delay their movements in 
Belgium, and divert another considerable number 
of them from north to south. That the French 
Staff succeeded in their object leaves no doubt ; 
for by August 20 the German 6th army at Metz, 
under Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, which was 
already very strong, was further reinforced to the 
extent of three more army corps ; and the Germans 
realised only too late that they had been befooled, 
that the main strength of the French lay not in 
Lorraine, but in Belgium ! It was too late because 
troops in such vast numbers cannot be transferred 
in the twinkling of an eye from one part of such a 
long front to another ! And at the very moment that 
the real significance of Joffre's move in the " Reich- 
land " dawned upon the German Staff the French 
strategist was leading the Germans to strike too soon 
in Belgium, to deliver against him a blow in the air, 
previous to smashing their dreams for ever on the 
banks of the Sambre ! The dashing valour of the 
French columns in Alsace and Lorraine had been 
enough to deceive the German leaders. Joffre had 
made use of the enthusiasm of his troops on an 
" annexed " soil to blind their opponents as to 



62 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

their true strength and numbers. All the while he 
was laying his trap in the north and egging on the 
Germans to a premature unfolding of their plans. 
He would have got them eventually in a ring of 
steel if some tactical mistakes, committed by one 
of his generals, had not dashed his whole plan to 
the ground, as we shall see. 

But before going further, the importance of the 
operations which thwarted the Germans so early 
in the war must be realised. Without a true per- 
spective of events on the eastern frontier of France 
the strategic developments in the north and west 
mean little or nothing. The pivot was there, be- 
tween Luneville and Nancy, and the Germans were 
brought on to make their mightiest effort upon it 
after having been delayed in a contemplated 
attempt, which, if it had been made at the right 
moment, would have meant the end of France and 
the triumph of Germany over Europe. 

It would be difficult to assign an exact date to 
the beginning of this general forward movement of 
the French in Alsace and Lorraine. The French 
eastern armies were more ready than the rest,, 
partly because their nucleus formations were already 
on the spot the famous " Iron Divisions " are 
always at war strength and battle-preparedness 
along the fortified frontier of France and partly 
owing to the anxiety entertained by the French 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 63 

Staff about the safety of their eastern line of de- 
fence. There can be no doubt, however, that this 
forward movement, being a corollary of the first 
offensive in Alsace, began very early. Already, 
ever since the declaration of war, the advanced 
troops near the German frontier were in constant 
contact everywhere ; and simultaneously with the 
opening of hostilities at Altkirch, General Dubail, 
of the 1st army, whose headquarters were at St. 
Die, was setting himself the task of capturing the 
passes of the Vosges, at first with small effectives, 
which swelled gradually as the mobilisation pro- 
gressed. These arduous operations were well ad- 
vanced, the Vosges passes were nearly all in French 
hands, when General Castelnau in the north and 
General Pau in the south assumed a definite advance 
Castelnau starting from Nancy to drive back on the 
one hand the Germans who had crossed the Moselle 
and Seille and had brutally bombarded Port a 
Mousson, an open town, and on the other hand to 
reduce the strong entrenchments of the Germans 
south of Saarburg ; General Pau to reoccupy Mul- 
hausen and to gain control of the Rhine bridges 
south of Strasburg. 

General Pau, who had replaced the first blunder- 
ing commander at Belfort, was a retired officer, 
seventy years of age, and lacked one hand, which 
he had lost in the war of 1870. An extremely able 



64 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

and popular man, had he been on the active list 
when the war broke out he might have found him- 
self in the place of Joffre, or at least been given a 
very large command. As it was, he came to replace 
a blunderer and to direct the movements of the 
right wing of General Dubail's army. 

Pau at once revealed his great ability. The plan 
for attacking the Germans in Upper Alsace was re- 
drawn, and Pau launched his columns accordingly. 
It was not a question of a mere reconnaisance, but 
of a large operation, which, in its local results at 
least, was meant to be decisive. Nor were the odds 
in favour of General Pau. Since their first alarm, 
the Germans had extended their left wing and 
had massed a large number of troops at Mulhausen 
and Altkirch. Three army corps, at least, were 
spread in the triangle of Neu Brisach-Altkirch- 
Basle. Therefore General Pau had a hard task 
before him. Yet, such was his tactical skill and 
the enthusiasm of the troops under him that the 
victory was swift and complete. 

Instead of striking east at Altkirch, he advanced 
northwards from Belfort and struck from the region 
of Thann. Taken by surprise, the Germans had no 
time to re-form and change front. Their rear divi- 
sions were crushed in detail at Gwebweiler and 
Mulhausen, whilst their main body lay idle at Alt- 
kirch. Then, when they attempted to move against 



TACTICAL VICTORY OF MULHAUSEN 65 

Pau's flank, this consummate tactician had already 
effected a change of front, and, overwhelmed by 
numbers, since their supports were destroyed, the 
Germans gave way and retired in disorder in the 
direction of Basle and across the Rhine. Their 
losses in men could not have been less than 10,000 ; 
and the French captured twenty-four field guns 
and a large amount of war material and munitions. 
It was altogether a brilliant victory. Pau had issued 
from Belfort on August 14, and by the 19th he had 
smashed three German corps, was master of all 
Upper Alsace, and had gained control of the Rhine 
bridges and of the approaches to Colmar and Neu 
Brisach. 

But this victory, glorious to the French arms and 
complete as it was, was destined to remain, in the 
larger strategic issues of the war, an indecisive or 
negative success, for the simple reason that it had 
been won outside the main line of German concen- 
tration. No doubt, if events in other quarters had 
been more favourable, Pau would have turned his 
victory to great account. He could have crossed 
the Rhine at once and invaded South Germany, 
which he was probably preparing to do when events 
in the north reversed the position against him and 
rendered the conquered position untenable. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE GERMANS, PERPLEXED BY THE FRENCH VICTORIES 
IN ALSACE-LORRAINE, SWIFTLY SEIZE AN 
ADVANTAGE AND WIN A GREAT TACTICAL 
VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH, WHICH, HOWEVER, 
BRINGS ABOUT STRATEGIC DISASTER TO THEIR 
PLANS OF CAMPAIGN 

GENERAL CASTELNATJ, like Pau a brilliant tactician 
of great gifts, was at first completely successful. 
In spite of the difficulties of the country in which 
he had to operate, and of the strong defensive works 
raised by the Germans along the whole frontier and 
right into French territory, the commander of the 
army of Lorraine so well co-ordinated his movements 
that, within a week, after hard and incessant fighting, 
he had driven back the Germans all along the line, 
and had captured all their positions south and 
south-east of Metz, right up to and including the 
Donon, the highest peak in the Vosges. General 
Dubail had also succeeded in wresting from the 
Germans all the passes of the Vosges, which they 
had elaborately fortified ; and these arduous and 
complicated operations terminated triumphantly 
at the pass of Saales, where a considerable success 

66 



Tout 




to illustrate the French 
at-ctvancf i n Alsace lnd Lorraine 
and dj utmost limit onJlug.20*. 

(jerman counte 



MAP 5. 



To face page 66. 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 67 

was won, no less than 1,500 prisoners, 20 pieces of 
artillery, a standard, and an enormous amount of 
war material falling into the hands of the French on 
August 18 and 19. 

Thus the results achieved by the French in the 
opening stage of the war surpassed anything that 
had been anticipated, and this led onlookers to 
take a crooked view of Joffre's strategy, for it was 
openly held that if the same effort had been made 
in Belgium that if General Joffre had kept strictly 
to the defensive on the eastern frontier and had 
assumed the offensive in the north, Belgium might 
have been spared invasion and Lie"ge would have 
been relieved. These well-meaning if futile critics 
did not realise at the time indeed they may not 
realise it yet that what they so naively advised 
and violently declaimed was precisely what the 
Germans expected and hoped that Joffre would do. 
From the moment that the Belgians had decided 
to resist, and had shown that they could and would 
do so, the German Staff had felt confident that the 
French would rush into Belgium and leave their 
eastern line insufficiently guarded ; then, with a 
comparatively small force, the Germans would have 
pierced that line, and, almost simultaneously, with 
an overwhelming superiority of numbers, they 
would have crushed the French in Belgium. But 
the Germans had not been prepared for an early, 



68 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

sudden, and general advance in the " Reichland." 
It puzzled them it blinded them for Joffre's 
strategy was astoundingly supple ; indeed, the said 
critics may be altogether absolved after all, since 
even the mighty brains of the German Staff were 
for a time at least completely taken in. Yet 
they had indications, if they could have read the 
book of Fate of a kind not furnished to the ordinary 
amateur strategist : the big reconnaissance by the 
Germans at Dinant, and an earlier one at Maugienne, 
north of Verdun, had convinced them that the 
French were rapidly gathering great forces in the 
north. Yet the violence of the blows dealt in Alsace 
and Lorraine by the French made them ponder and 
hesitate . They could not make out the real meaning 
of it all, nor penetrate the intentions of their 
opponents. The advance in Alsace, and in Lor- 
raine principally, looked serious from the German 
point of view. The German line of concentration 
was menaced at a vital spot. But at the same time, 
on account of the great strength of this spot, an 
opportunity of striking a decisive blow in Lorraine 
seemed suddenly to loom a blow which would open 
to them at once the contemplated entry into France 
through her main line of defence. 

The measures they took to effect this blow show 
they believed that Joffre had adopted the risky 
strategic principle of operating on parallel lines 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 69 

that he had equally divided his forces between hia 
northern and eastern theatre of operations, when, 
as a matter of fact, he was far stronger in the 
north. There, in any case, the Germans thought 
that they would always be stronger than he, a fact 
that Joffre, even from his high position, could not 
easily guess the reason for which will be seen 
later on and if Joffre's right wing, strong as it 
was supposed to be, could be crumpled up and 
destroyed, then their task in the north would be 
made still easier. 

But, it may be argued, why should the Germans 
expect to break through the French line of defence 
when they thought the French right wing was so 
strong ? Because, as they saw by reason of their 
own punishment, this right wing was not all concen- 
trated in Lorraine it extended to the Vosges and 
Upper Alsace ; and a swift and smashing victory 
over the Lorraine army would place the others to 
the south in jeopardy. Now the Germans calcu- 
lated that the victorious French in the south would 
hesitate to evacuate Alsace a second time ; and that, 
before they did so, the German columns, coming 
down from Saarburg, would have reached Chalons 
the French armies of Upper Alsace and the Vosges 
would be isolated and cut off and later on would 
be surrounded in Epinal and Belfort. The efforts 
made to achieve all this would not affect adversely, 



70 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

from the German point of view, the situation in 
the north on the contrary, it would help matters 
in Belgium greatly, for the French armies of the 
south would be destroyed, and the fate of those 
of the north would be thereby settled, if by that 
time they had not also succumbed on the Belgian 
plains in the grasp of Kluck, Bulow, Hausen and 
Wurtemberg. 

So it came about that the German Staff decided 
to strike at the French in Lorraine with great 
strength. 

The 20th of August marks the end of the great 
French advance in Lorraine and Alsace. It also 
opens the period of decisive developments in 
Belgium. But inasmuch as the strategy of Joffre in 
Belgium was greatly dependent upon the course of 
events on the eastern frontier, and that these events 
reached the critical stage sooner than those in 
Belgium, and that it is necessary to keep them well 
in mind whilst judging the state of affairs in the 
north of the same period, we had best realise the 
events of the next four or five days upon the French 
eastern frontier. 

We have seen that, after considerable fighting, 
Castelnau's army had captured one after another 
most of the German positions south and south- 
east of Metz. On the 20th of August the advanced 
posts of this French army reached Fenestrange, to 




Jffa.p te illustrate 
effort againjt (Ae'Troiu-e' 'o 

audits uttermost 



oriJtugujt 24 Q 
French counter dUenftCi marked. 
tius - -^ -------- ^ 



\ /"" SWITZERLAND 



MAP 6. 



70 faie page 70. 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 71 

the north of Saarburg ; and the other troops getting 
into line, Castelnau proceeded towards the carrying 
of the last positions of the Germans between Metz 
and Strasburg with the object of piercing their line 
of concentration. 

To understand what happened it is good to bear 
in mind several things : First of all that Castelnau 's 
army was not as strong as when it had left Luneville 
and Nancy ; it had been depleted of a whole corps 
the 9th which had been sent to reinforce Laren- 
zac's army in the north, this being part of Joffre's 
strategy of making the Lorraine army, as it pro- 
gressed, to appear much stronger than it was. 
Then the cost of capturing the first German entrench- 
ments had been very heavy. Then, again, several 
units, partly through exhaustion, partly for the 
purpose of organising the conquered ground and 
fulfilling other duties, lagged behind. Under these 
circumstances, Castelnau would have been better 
advised to wait a day or two before attacking 
in which case he would most probably not have 
attacked ; he would have confined himself strictly 
to the defensive, or even have retreated across the 
frontier, his task being now fully accomplished. 
But he saw, or fancied that he saw, a great oppor- 
tunity before him : the Germans, he thought, were 
demoralised as indeed those of them were whom 
he had defeated, but certainly not so the fresh army 



72 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

corps that the German commanders were now 
bringing down from the north to meet him. The 
Germans also had seen an opportunity before them. 
As the French advanced in Lorraine, the Germans 
were making their last line of defence stronger and 
stronger, indeed impregnable there were inter- 
minable lines of trenches, redoubts, barricades of 
felled trees, wire entanglements galore, and, what 
was to prove more formidable still, an immense 
amount of heavy artillery drawn from the huge 
arsenal of Metz. 

It was to perfect and useless slaughter that the 
French officers led their troops at Saarburg and 
Morhange on the 20th of August. In vain Castel- 
nau's wearied columns, with extraordinary pluck and 
heroism dashed themselves against the formidable 
obstacles erected by the foe. They were enveloped 
in a tornado of steel, an inferno of shot and shell. 
First the poor reservists gave way. Then the 
Germans, perfectly fresh and with a superiority in 
numbers of three to one, launched their counter- 
attacks. Happily the 20th army corps the "Iron- 
sides " were there, or the destruction of Castelnau's 
army might have been accomplished. The 20th, 
commanded by Foch, did not give way, and protected 
the retreat. The Germans made vain efforts to 
break that corps ; and in the attempt they sustained 
greater losses than they had ever contemplated, at 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 73 

the same time the losses of the heroic "Ironsides" 
were terrible they cannot have been less than 
20,000 men, besides nearly all their artillery. 

Thus it will be seen that Castelnau squandered 
a good third of his troops, and came near to being 
surrounded ; for, before he had recrossed the frontier, 
the Germans on one side were ascending the Moselle 
and the Seille, towards Nancy, whilst on the other 
side strong German columns were advancing from 
Strasbourg to the Vosges. This, perhaps, saved 
him, for he hurried his retreat and did not attempt 
to make a stand until he had reached the " Grand 
Couronne " and the Meurthe. In one thing the 
Germans were baffled, for they had counted, with 
absolute certainty, on the annihilation of Castel- 
nau's army at Saarburg ; but they were to suffer 
more serious disappointments. 

After all, the affair of Saarburg in itself, whatever 
the losses, could not influence Joffre's strategy. It 
was the counterpart of Mulhausen a defeat sus- 
tained outside the main line of concentration. Had 
it led to the piercing of the gap of Mirecourt and the 
isolation of Dubail and Pau, the one in the Vosges 
and the other in Alsace, then it would have been 
another matter. It would have been the decisive 
battle of the war, and France would now be a 
German province. 

As it was, it did not lead to the piercing of the 



74 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

famous gap, nor to the isolation of Pau and Dubail 
in Alsace, and Joffre's end was attained. He weak- 
ened the Germans in the north by drawing several 
of their corps to the south ; and with his bait he 
drew a huge army on to a point that he saw to it 
they did not pierce. For, against the hopes of the 
Germans, and to their profound astonishment, Pau 
and Dubail instantly evacuated Alsace and the 
Vosges, and came up just in time to reinforce the 
sorely-pressed army of Lorraine, and thus to save 
France and Europe from the direst calamity. The 
efforts of the Germans, of the army of Prince Rup- 
precht of Bavaria, to reach the banks of the Moselle, 
west of Luneville, and to shut up Castelnau's army 
in Toul, were tremendous gigantic. The German 
commanders were bent on reaping all the profit of 
their victory at Saarburg, and of the redistribution 
of forces they were compelled to make, a redistri- 
bution that must be disadvantageous to them if it 
did not at once yield decisive results. Against their 
intention they had been forced to spread out their 
strength to open their fists apart and leave bare 
their breast to a blow when they would have pre- 
ferred to have kept their strength together, to have 
remained concentrated on a shorter front. They 
somehow began to understand the game of Joffre 
without as yet giving him credit for more strategic 
acumen. According to them he was still bound to 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 75 

be caught in Belgium, and to leave his army of 
Alsace where it was ! If nothing of this kind hap- 
pened (and the German leaders could not bring 
themselves to speculate on such a probability), then 
the war was just as good as lost to Germany. All 
the period of preparation and waiting would have 
been for nothing ! 

Now it was not likely that, having the initiative 
from the start, the French would wilfully lose it. 
This initiative had been obtained by the first stroke 
in Alsace ; it had been obtained by the next ad- 
vance in the annexed provinces ; they were keeping 
it also in Belgium by drawing the Germans on to 
their positions instead of walking up to the German 
positions ; and, whether they succeeded or not, 
whether they advanced or retreated, the result 
would be the same Germany was doomed. The 
fact that the Germans, like the journalists the world 
over, were deceived into thinking they held the 
initiative simply because they attacked Joffire where 
Joffre decided that they should attack him did not 
give the Germans the initiative. 

It was perhaps a sense of the coming calamity of 
their strategic fiasco that brought the Germans to 
squander their forces in the way they did to strike 
so desperately in so many quarters at the same time, 
and to commit the most senseless barbarities. It 
was not Liege that lost them the war ; it was Alsace 



76 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

it made them lose the initiative, and that was enough. 
They followed the designs of Jofire, obeyed his 
moves, lost their balance, and tumbled down after 
him as a man might be pulled down a steep incline 
at the foot of which his assailant destroys him. 
The fact of his rushing down on top does not prove 
that he commands the fall. The Germans might 
have been cornered sooner and France spared the 
invasion had Jofrre been better informed as to the 
German strength, and had all his subordinate 
commanders helped him equally well. 

Nothing severe, of course, can be said against 
Castelnau. He only erred in the psychological cal- 
culations, and that is what the ablest of men can do 
and have done. And there should be eternally put to 
his credit the high praise he deserved for the way 
in which, after such a reverse, he reorganised his 
army whilst keeping the foe at bay, and for the skill 
with which he co-ordinated his movements with 
those of Dubail and Pau. He paid back the Germans 
at Luneville for the losses sustained at Saarburg 
whole regiments were mown down ; brigades 
entirely disappeared. The Germans were held up 
for two whole days on the right bank of the Moselle, 
which they just managed to reach ; then they were 
finished by two great flank attacks by the French, 
one from Nancy, and the other from the south 
(August 25). They lost ground, and henceforward 



TACTICAL VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH 77 

stood on the defensive, until their second great 
attempt further north and the gigantic battle of 
Nancy. 

Thus we see the Germans winning a tactical 
action on a large scale, but, in the doing, losing 
strategically, and thinning their strength at their 
vital spot, in obedience to Joffre's design ! We shall 
see this domination of the will of Joflre over the 
German commanders again and again until it has 
almost become a law of German subordination to 
the will of the conqueror. And it is curious as 
regards the German psychology, and amazing as to 
the nerve of the great French commander, that 
these German strategic defeats have always alarmed 
Europe as though they were the onrush of victories. 



CHAPTER IX 

JOFFRE EVADES THE GERMAN TRAP IN 

THE GERMAN GENERALS, RUSHING TO OVER- 
WHELM THE FRENCH THEREIN, STRIKE THEIR 
BLOW IN THE AIR, AT THE SAME TIME BAULKING 
JOFFRE 'S COUNTER-STROKE BY THEIR SUCCESS- 
FUL CONCENTRATION OF A WHOLE SECRET ARMY 

THE position in Belgium on the 14th of August, 
when the French advance in Lorraine began, was 
as follows : The German 2nd army was rapidly 
and methodically reducing the forts of Liege, whilst 
keeping in contact with the Belgian forces that were 
concentrating at Louvain ; the 1st German army 
was crossing the Meuse both at Liege and Vize, and 
was slowly feeling its way in the direction of Ant- 
werp ; the other German northern armies the 3rd 
under Hausen, the 4th under Wurtemberg, and the 
5th under the Crown Prince were busy in various 
ways, but not in active operations, if we except the 
investment of the small fortress of Longwy, near 
the Luxembourg frontier. This fortress a very 
old one dating from the eighteenth century had 
been first attacked on the 3rd of August. By the 

5th or 6th of August it was completely invested. 

78 



cLp Chawing JduckJ advan 
ccfrvm Brussels on.dluj.27- 22 




MAP 7. 



To face page 78. 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 79 

Its dogged resistance was surprising, but of no 
great consequence to the Germans. Apart from the 
moral value of the performance, its commandant, 
d'Arche, might well have surrendered at once with- 
out the least endangering the safety of France. 

The work done by the German centre armies in 
other ways was of greater import than the subduing 
of this small stronghold. They were entrenching 
carefully south of Liege, along the Ourthe and at the 
opening of the Ardennes forest. Their strength in 
number of units was no doubt diminishing on account 
of the redistribution southwards compelled by the 
French offensive in Alsace ; but, taking for granted 
that their enemy was going to act in the way 
the German commanders expected, their strength, 
coupled with the elaborate preparations made to 
receive the French, was quite sufficient to involve 
the French in a crushing disaster if the French 
blundered into the Belgian trap. And be it remem- 
bered that the Germans had not, as yet, awakened 
to the skilful habit of Joffre in using the Prussian 
self-confidence and self-deception into employing 
their violent onrushes to draw them into positions 
where he desired to give them battle ! We must 
remember that, at this time, the German com- 
manders were still convinced that the French were 
in strength in Belgium, lured thereto byf sentiment. 
Their Belgian battles, so far, were German recon- 



80 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

naissances in force to discover where the French 
were. Let us try to grasp the German psychology 
at this stage as revealed by their strategy and 
tactics. 

The result of the big reconnaissances at Dinant, 
and even of the earlier one at Mangienne, north of 
Verdun, must, at the time, have raised the hopes of 
the German commanders to the highest pitch. In 
the first (Mangienne, on August 11 and 12) the 
counter-reconnaissance had been terrific, no less than 
1000 prisoners and even some guns being captured 
by the French. This must have given them en- 
couragement. It pointed, at any rate, to a pro- 
nounced effort northwards. At Dinant, on August 
14 and 15, it was better still. There in Belgian ter- 
ritory, and quite near Namur, the strong German 
reconnoitring force a small army of itself had 
been simply swept away by what seemed to be a 
whole army corps, a great number of French field 
batteries being in action whilst the Germans had 
only machine guns. 

Now an army corps does not generally advance 
by itself so far from its own frontier. It is usually 
accompanied, or followed, by several more. The 
Germans deduced that a general advance of the 
French in Belgium had begun. They were con- 
vinced of it the next day, August 16, when another 
German reconnoitring force, based on Huy, came 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 81 

into collision with French troops at Gembloux ! 
These French troops had also with them a good 
quota of field guns, and on the 17th, after a stiff 
fight, the French recaptured Gembloux. The 
reports about French troops being in great 
numbers at Brussels, and even in contact with 
the Belgian army near Louvain, were persistent. 
The expected French attack in the Ardennes might 
take place at any moment. 

The German commanders, flushed with antici- 
pation and excitement, decided that it was about 
time to strike. And they struck but in north 
Belgium only, for it was held that the chance of a 
counter-stroke delivered under the best conditions 
against the French centre armies must not be 
missed. These French armies were known to be 
gathering at Montmedy and Sedan ; they must be 
ready by now, thought the German Staff, but they 
were uncommonly slow in reaching their positions ! 
Certainly, by that date, their advanced guards 
should have reached the Ourthe, yet they had not 
even crossed the frontier, whilst the left wing, on 
the other hand, was distinctly going up to perdition ! 
Dinant and Gembloux were there to prove it. 
There must be at least an army corps in and 
around Namur, not to mention those that might 
be taking up positions between the Sambre and 
the Meuse. 
F 



82 'GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Kluck struck ; and Bulow and Hausen followed 
suit a little afterwards. 

The task of Kluck was to pin down and surround 
the Belgian army. That of Bulow was to drive 
a wedge between this Belgian army and a number 
of imaginary French corps south of it. Bulow also 
must help Hausen, who was acting from the east, 
in a hurried assault on Namur. Thus the Belgian 
army and the French left wing would be disposed 
of at the same time. Whilst this was going on 
the French centre armies would feel bound 
to hurry on to the attack in order to relieve 
the pressure in the north. They would at once 
be assailed in front by Wurtemberg and the 
Crown Prince, whilst their retreat was to be 
cut off by way of the Meuse by Hausen and 
Bulow. 

At once a perplexing position is explained, and 
we now see why the army of the Crown Prince was 
placed in Luxembourg. For directly the German 
right wing had achieved its main object of sur- 
rounding and destroying the French left wing, the 
Crown Prince was to push on to Verdun and E/heims 
and establish connection with the army of Bavaria, 
which, by that time, so it was hoped, would have 
broken through the gap of Mirecourt and have 
reached Chalons. From thence the two prospective 
young monarchs would push on to Paris and leave 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 83 

to the wing armies the task of finishing off the beaten 
French armies. 

Kluck, in the north, proceeded with his task very 
well only the Belgian army fought in the open 
much better than he had expected. The strategy 
of the Belgians may have been defective, and their 
tactics not quite up to the mark, but nothing can 
be said against their valour, endurance, and courage. 
Kluck, although he struck heavily at Aershot, failed 
to cut off their retreat on Antwerp. His frontal 
attack succeeded ; but that was of no use strate- 
gically to him, except that it enabled him to 
advance on and to enter the Belgian capital. The 
Belgian army retreated in good order on to Ant- 
werp, where, as it was not defeated, the German 
commander found it necessary to keep a sufficient 
strength to contain it. 

When Kluck entered Brussels in triumph he 
found no French troops there ! But he may have 
supposed that they had hurriedly evacuated the 
town on his approach. 

Bulow, by now, with the 2nd army, was busy ; 
but to his astonishment he met no considerable 
French forces north of the Sambre but only detach- 
ments, which, spreading over the wooded country, 
constantly waylaid and ambushed his advancing 
troops. But, what was worse, there were no indica- 
tions as to the French having reached Namur as yet ! 



84 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

The French armies, or their main body, were 
still on the frontier. On the day that the Germans 
attacked Namur and entered Brussels these French 
armies moved forward, together with the British 
army, which, having finished its concentration 
behind the fortress of Maubeuge, advanced swiftly 
towards Mons. 

The position of the German right wing was now 
precarious, for it had reached its limit of expansion 
without having achieved anything definite or 
decisive. It had stumbled forward blindly ; it 
had the Meuse behind it, and the forces of the 
Allies were on both its flanks. Technically, in terms 
of strategy, it was surrounded. 

Happily for them the German commanders were 
not slow to grasp the fact, nor did they fail to realise 
that, in order to avert a disaster, they must quickly 
modify their plan. The movement westward must 
continue, and even be accelerated so as not to leave 
time to the French and British forces to take and 
prepare strong positions . The German commanders, 
it must be noted, were up to this time wholly in 
the dark as to the whereabouts of the English 
army. They knew that it had been landed in 
France, but what line of action it would follow 
they could not guess. Up to the 22nd of August, 
when some of Bulow's Uhlans met vedettes in khaki 
at Soignies, the German generals were inclined to 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 85 

think that the British would begin operations from 
the line of the Scheldt. So well accepted was this 
theory that, when other Uhlans belonging to Kluck 
arrived at Tournai on the same day (August 22) 
they enquired for the French, not for the British, 
who were advancing not far, but westward, from that 
place . The troops of Kluck , in issuing from Brussels , 
spread in the direction of Ghent and Ostend on the 
one side, and at Ath and Tournai on the other. 

This shows a double purpose that of meeting 
" something " along the Scheldt, and of driving 
the usual wedge between that something and the 
French forces west of the Scheldt. 

The British were not where the Germans supposed 
them to be ; and here is another instance of the 
sentimental being wisely sacrificed to the soundly 
strategical. The invasion of Belgium by the 
Germans affected the English more than one can 
say. The wish for the instant relief of this small 
and heroic nation was foremost in all English 
breasts, and it appeared to many that those respons- 
ible for the prosecution of the campaign were bound 
to, and would endeavour to, bring the British and 
Belgian forces into touch as soon as possible, and 
would, therefore choose the most likely line of action 
to effect that purpose above all other tactical or 
strategic considerations whatsoever. The base for 
this line lay in Belgian territory, and was later on 



86 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

chosen for the landing of the column which was sent 
to relieve Antwerp. To this degree the Germans 
did not err so greatly in their assumption ; only 
once again they were tricked by their tendency to 
undervalue the firmness and strategic ability of their 
enemies, for there can be no doubt that if Kluck's 
columns, instead of spreading westwards as they 
did and losing time in the process, had hurried 
immediately southwards towards Valenciennes and 
Mons, the fate of the army under Sir John French 
would have been at once settled. 

In short, the Germans struck their blow in the air ; 
neither the French nor the British were in the trap 
and the triumphant entry into Brussels, however 
much it may have warmed the pride of the German 
people, must have left the German commanders 
anxious and disturbed at their strategic failure. 
Fine tacticians, however, Kluck and the other 
commanders made the best of a bad job and at once 
moved to retrieve their blunder. 

But, before coming to subsequent operations 
on this side, it is necessary to see what was happen- 
ing or had already happened east of the Meuse. 
For it was there that the German plans for the 
annihilation of the French left wing (a disaster in 
which the English army would have been involved) 
had been somewhat modified. It was in this way : 
the advance of the French centre armies, like the 



J&al&e efthejfaehn n ej 

2) -22 



GLctvance. on tke 

^. 




MAP 8. 



To face page 86. 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 87 

rest, had been expected by the Germans to take 
place sooner ; but on the 20th of August, whilst 
Bulow and a part of Hausen's forces were attacking 
Namur, the French centre armies were still on the 
frontier ; the German commanders still believing 
and the illusion did not vanish until two days 
later that the French left wing extended far to 
the north of the Sambre, and was in occupation of 
Namur, the German Staff could not account for this 
delay in the centre. To them it looked as if the 
French left wing stood in a dangerous position 
which, it is true, would have been the case if it 
had been disposed as the Germans thought, whereas 
it was only just about to leave the frontier ! 

The opportunity to the Germans seemed a great 
one : they could cut off the French left wing in 
Belgium, as they had hoped and designed to do 
earlier ! Therefore it was not necessary to wait for 
a French attack in the Ardennes besides, that 
attack, if it came, might come too late, and already 
the line of the Ourthe had been abandoned by the 
German forces advancing on Namur from the east. 
These forces must be increased in the direction of 
Givet and Dinant so as to outflank the French army 
on the Sambre ; and, in the meantime, the German 
centre armies would issue from their positions in 
the forests, and deal with the forces opposed to 
them. 



88 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Thus the general advance of the contending 
parties in this region took place simultaneously 
and the collision which ensued on the banks of the 
Lesse and of the Semoy, tributaries of the Meuse, 
was terrific no less than 300,000 men being engaged 
on each side. The 3rd and 4th French armies 
under Generals Ruffey and de Langle were each of 
a strength of five army corps l ; and they were 
opposed, partly by Hausen's army, the whole of 
Wurtemberg's five 2 corps, and at least half of the 
army of the Crown Prince acting from Luxembourg 
and the Woevre. It is interesting to note here that 
the Crown Prince of Germany expected a complete 
smash of the French in the Ardennes, and was 
holding himself in readiness to advance on Verdun 
and Rheims, as originally planned. In order fully 
to understand this, the reader should realise that 
it was the date of the French defeat at Saarburg 
(August 21), and that if the retransference north- 
wards of the German corps sent to Lorraine was 
impossible, all the German commanders were in 
touch with each other and knew at once through 
Von Moltke, the Chief of the General Staff, all that 
was happening on any part of the front. The 
Crown Prince knew that the army of Bavaria had 



1 Two first line corps, three reserve corps. 

2 A German Corps of the 1st line had three divisions ; a French 
corps only two. 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 89 

defeated Castelnan in Lorraine ; and that the 
Bavarian army was advancing to pierce the French 
line of concentration at the gap of Mirecourt, with 
the ultimate object of reaching Chalons. There 
the junction of the centre German armies would 
take place and the advance on Paris begin. 

The gap of Mirecourt, as we have seen, was not 
pierced by the Germans ; and the defeat of the 
French in the Ardennes, although serious, was not 
decisive, nor even complete. 

Taken aback by the numbers of the Germans 
opposing them, and hampered by the difficulties 
of the broken country, the French generals, it 
must be said, rather lost their heads, principally 
Ruffey, who, as he advanced towards Neufchateau, 
found himself seriously outflanked in the direction 
of Longwy and Virton. There were also other 
causes of discomfiture which are explained in the 
French official survey of the campaign : " There 
were, in this affair, individual and collective failures, 
imprudences committed under the fire of the 
enemy, divisions ill engaged, rash deployments and 
precipitate retreats, a premature waste of men, 
and finally the inadequacy of certain of our troops 
and their leaders, both as regards the use of infantry 
and of artillery. In consequence of these lapses, 
the enemy, turning to account this difficult terrain, 
was able to secure the maximum of profit from 



90 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the advantages which the superiority of his subaltern 
cadres gave him." 

Nothing could be more frank and impartial. But 
the words " maximum of profit " must be taken 
here in the tactical sense, for strategically the 
Germans derived no benefit from their victory. The 
Germans might have had the maximum of profit 
if all the French subaltern commanders and the 
troops under them had been equally inefficient. 
But there was one amongst them, General Sarrail, 
who had the soul and the capacities of a great 
leader of men ; and the corps under him, the 6th, 
was the one which he had specially trained at 
Chalons. This 6th corps (whilst the other troops 
were falling back across the frontier under pressure 
from the enemy) retook the offensive and delivered 
such a counter-stroke against the Crown Prince's 
army at Virton that the Germans in that region were 
brought to a standstill after suffering great losses. 
General Sarrail, two days later, took the place of 
General Ruffey at the head of the 3rd army, and, 
during the Great Retreat that followed, he was 
entrusted with the defence of the approaches to 
Verdun, the great eastern " camp retranche " of 
France. With what ability General Sarrail was to 
perform his task we shall see later on. It now re- 
mains to be explained how it was that General 
Joffre, in spite of his efforts in Lorraine and Alsace, 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 91 

did not quite succeed in obtaining the superiority of 
numbers which he was striving to attain on Belgian 
soil, and which, in spite of the tactical short- 
comings of some of his subordinates, might have 
ensured an early and decisive victory for the Allies. 
General Joffre was misinformed from the start as 
to the number of German armies operating against 
him. A Russian report, from a reliable source, 
placed the number of German armies in the western 
theatre of war at six, thus implying that the strength 
of the German eastern forces operating against 
Russia was greater than it was. Other reports 
seemed to corroborate this. For instance, it became 
known that one of the German armies destined for 
Poland was the army of Saxony. The Saxon 
officers, however, gave vent to public complaints 
and protests about it, saying that they had hoped 
to be sent to the land of good food and good wine, 
whereas they were now to be sent to die of hunger 
and thirst on the dreary steppes of Russia ! In the 
end they were made happy, and were led towards 
the land of their predilection. But whether all this 
was part of a deep-laid, well-calculated plot to 
mislead the French Staff one cannot say definitely. 
However that may be, the French Staff were misled, 
and they were not to realise until the third or fourth 
week of the war the true strength of the German 
armies opposing them. What points to the likeli- 



92 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

hood of the change of destination of the Saxon 
army being part of a carefully conceived plan to 
deceive the French Staff is the choice of the part 
of the German front selected for the concentration 
of that army the Ardennes Forest, where the 
Saxons took up positions alongside the army of 
Wurtemberg ; also the fact that the Saxons were 
placed under the command of General von Hausen, 
former Chief of the Staff to the Grand Duke of 
Wurtemberg, for when the name of General von 
Hausen appeared in the list of German commanders 
it was quite naturally supposed that he was acting 
in his former capacity, whereas he did not command 
the Grand Duke of Wurtemberg's army at all, but 
one of his own the Saxon army of five army corps, 
and including the Prussian Guards, which brought 
up to seven the number of German armies concen- 
trated in the western theatre of war. 

Thus Joffre was misled by the French Intelligence, 
and was only to discover the true state of affairs 
the increase of the German strength by the addi- 
tion of the Saxon corps when the German centre 
armies issued from the forest of the Ardennes in 
their leap forward to cut off the French left wing 
and their assault upon the French centre armies in 
order to crush them. But it must not be supposed, 
because of the success of this secret concentration, 
that Joffre's manoeuvre in Lorraine had failed or been 



GERMAN TRAP IN BELGIUM 93 

futile, or had come to nothing . For, though Joffre had 
not been able to obtain the superiority of numbers 
at which he had aimed in Belgium, neither did the 
Germans obtain that overwhelming superiority. 
At least three of the German corps, some 150,000 
men, had been diverted from north to south ; others 
were " pinned down " in Lorraine and Alsace ; 
and the Germans failed to achieve anything decisive 
in Belgium ; indeed, they came instead within an 
ace of being utterly smashed to pieces there them- 
selves, as we shall soon see. 



CHAPTER X 

THE GERMANS WALK INTO THE TRAP LAID BY JOFFRE 
FOR THEIR ANNIHILATION, BUT ONE OF JOFFRE'S 
GENERALS LEAVES THE TRAP DOOR OPEN, AND 
THE BRITISH ARE WASTED 

THE battle of Charleroi or Mons, as it is sometimes 
called began on the 22nd of August that is to 
say, at least a whole day after de Langle and Kuffey 
had assumed the defensive in the Ardennes, and 
Castelnau was in retreat in Lorraine. At Mons 
itself, where the British army deployed on hastily 
prepared positions between Conde on the French 
frontier and Binche in Belgium, there was no 
fighting on the 22nd itself. Kluck was looking for 
the British army along the Scheldt ; and Bulow's 
more western columns were still feeling their way, 
wholly in the dark, south of Brussels. But at Char- 
leroi, early in the morning, the fray began. 

The French army (Larenzac's) occupied positions 
stretching from Anderlues and Thuin on the Sambre 
to Dinant on the Meuse. The front was, therefore, 
diagonal, and not parallel to the Sambre. This was 
on account of the situation of Namur at the junction 
of the two rivers, and because the French high com- 

94 



i Ghent 




3 French 

German army corps 
C~aua2.ru 



MAP 9. 



To face page 94 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 95 

mand had not wished to occupy the fortress, which 
was already sufficiently garrisoned by Belgian troops. 
Namur had been under attack since the 20th of 
August ; and on the 22nd, when the battle of 
Charleroi began, a couple of forts had already been 
reduced. So it is worthy of remark here that the 
length of its resistance did not matter to the French 
Staff, who meant to entrap the Germans there, and 
also that the Germans only attacked it on the day 
they did because they fully believed it to be held by 
French troops. 

The composition of the Larenzac army, like that 
of the other French armies, was very heterogeneous ; 
but it was still more so than any of the others, as it 
contained a high percentage of African troops 
Arabs, Moors, and negroes. It was altogether the 
strongest army on the whole line, as it contained four 
infantry corps of the first line, besides the African 
divisions and the magnificent cavalry corps (three 
divisions) of General Sordet. It is true that this corps 
had been on the move since the 6th of August, and was 
considerably fatigued after its exertions at Dinant, 
along the right bank of the Meuse, and on the north 
bank of the Sambre at Gembloux, Luttre, and other 
localities. Its toll of casualties was already heavy, 
but as it fell back before the German columns 
marching on Charleroi and Thuin it was still full 
of fight, and was able to do splendid service on the 



96 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

23rd and 24th, as we shall see. There were also 
reservists (three divisions), less good, but full of 
enthusiasm and anxious to meet the foe. 

With such an army, and the support of the British 
on his left, General Joffre felt that he ought to win 
the victory. 

This victory would have been his if the command 
of the 5th French army had been placed in better 
hands. General Larenzac, its commander, was a 
brilliant theorist, but nothing more. No man ever 
disappointed his chief more utterly than did Lar- 
enzac. General Joffre was bound to leave some 
initiative to his subordinate commanders ; other- 
wise there would have been no such thing as " army 
commanders." 

General Joffre only stated, roughly, what his 
general intentions were, and left their execution to 
his army commanders. It would have been impos- 
sible for him to control the army corps and divi- 
sional handling of the immense array of troops 
stretching from the Sambre to the Swiss frontier. 

General Larenzac, commander of the 5th army, 
committed mistakes which were not at first apparent, 
and of which General Joffre only became aware 
when it was too late. 

First of all, he should have occupied with great 
strength both banks of the Sambre, and not the 
south bank only ; failing this if he meant to 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 97 

remain on the defensive he should have destroyed 
the bridges. He should have treated the line of the 
Meuse in the same way. For, once these positions 
were rendered secure against any attack, the fate of 
the German right wing in Belgium was sealed. Namur 
would have become a death-trap to the Germans, 
and the British army, acting from Mons northwards, 
would have placed in a very tight position those 
German corps that had ventured too far to the west 
on their blind quest after the said British army. On 
the other hand, once the Germans were allowed to 
cross both rivers the position would be practically 
reversed against the Allies, who must then retire 
to avoid an envelopment. 

General Larenzac had had ample time to fortify 
the lines of the Sambre and the Meuse with strong 
entrenchments, and, above all, to occupy Charleroi 
in strength. He did none of these things. All these 
advanced positions were held loosely, Charleroi, for 
instance, being only occupied by a detachment of 
light troops and a few machine guns ! Only south of 
Dinant, towards Givet, was the line of the Meuse 
fairly strongly prepared ; but north of it, towards 
Namur, nothing had been done, except that, seem- 
ingly as an afterthought, General Larenzac sent on 
the 22nd of August, to the fortress there, a regiment 
of the line, for what definite purpose will probably 
never be discovered. 
Q 



98 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

The battle of Charleroi, therefore, opened badly 
for the French when, on the contrary, from the 
strength of the 5th army, it should have begun 
with a distinct advantage. The Germans were in 
earnest, and bent on the annihilation of the French 
eft wing. They were not slow to grasp the situa- 
tion, the danger to their own position should the 
French be allowed to recover and make good their 
mistakes. And, fighting with desperate will knowing 
what failure meant, they struck quickly and as 
heavily as they could on both sides, 

On the north of the Sambre there were two 
German corps. A third was winding its way down, 
west of Charleroi, towards Binche and Thuin. 

Another corps, the 7th, was still far behind, on 
the road from Brussels to Nivelles ; but it would be 
in support or continue towards Mons. On the east 
of the Meuse the whole army of Hausen (the 5th), 
including the Prussian Guards, was coming up. 

The town of Charleroi was smothered in shells. 
The weak French detachments in the town made 
what was described by imaginative correspondents 
as "a medieval sortie " but it was a useless 
slaughter of men, a futile squandering of brave lives. 
Once Charleroi was not properly occupied, it would 
have been better to retire from it to the main 
position, or even as far back as the frontier. Yet 
Larenzac became aware, through the efforts of the 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 99 

Germans, of its importance, for on the 23rd he made 
four distinct attempts to retake it. But all in vain. 
The only result achieved was the packing of the 
streets of the town with dead. What casualties 
the 3rd French corps who fought there suffered 
will probably never be known. 

But what troubled Larenzac more was the flank 
attack of von Hausen. As a matter of fact he 
should not have been so anxious about this flank 
attack. The African troops were lining the Meuse, 
and could have inflicted terrible losses on the 
Germans, as they did later on the next day from 
a far worse position. 

All the French commander had to do was to gather 
all his strength on the main lines south of the Sambre, 
and to dispute the crossings of the Meuse with von 
Hausen. The French would thus still have had a 
chance of winning the victory and of crushing 
Bulow's western corps between them and the 
English. Larenzac, instead, withdrew his right 
wing, and thus allowed the Germans to cross the 
Meuse at Dinant and north of it. Once this was 
done all possibility of a French victory on Belgian 
soil vanished. 

And the British troops were now going to be placed 
in a tight corner. 

The fighting at Mons or rather at Binche only 
began on the 23rd of August at noon, that is to say, 



100 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

a full day after Larenzac had lost, practically, the 
crossings over the Sambre. The situation of the 
5th French army, however, was not as yet hopeless, 
as Larenzac had not yet begun his retirement from 
the Meuse. The German corps which came into 
collision with the British east of Mons was the 
9th of Bulow's army, one division of which was 
already engaged with the French at Anderlues. 
This corps had as its objective the fortress of 
Maubeuge, in the rear of the British army. Its 
march was impeded by the French, who struck at 
it heavily on its flank from Thuin ; and judging 
from the reception it got from the British a little 
afterwards, it would have been routed without a 
doubt annihilated or captured if only Charleroi 
could have been held by the French. When, how- 
ever, its attack developed against the British, 
Charleroi was securely held by Bulow. On the rest 
of the British front, north and west of Mons, there 
was also a certain amount of fighting from the early 
morning, but it was only of a desultory nature, the 
main bodies of the advanced troops which were 
attacking there being still far in the rear at Nivelles 
and at Ath, so that one can say that the brunt of 
the fighting on that day on this part of the line 
fell to the British 1st corps, under Sir Douglas Haig, 
which occupied entrenched positions in front of 
Binche and Peissant, 




Jiattle ofJlons C"h.a,rle 

Position on. 



MAP 10. 



To fafe page 100. 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 101 

The battle opened very favourably for the British. 
The troops, after their enthusiastic reception at 
Boulogne and all along the marches thence were full 
of fire and felt that they could beat any enemy. 
The Germans, of course, animated now with a special 
and peculiar hatred of England, felt just as anxious 
to meet them. Thus the encounter was bound to 
be a formidable one, with the advantage distinctly 
on the side of the English, since they were care- 
fully entrenched and not yet outnumbered. Besides, 
their tactics and their high standard of musketry 
must have been something of a surprise to the 
Germans, who were easily mown down by the 
hundred before they themselves could inflict serious 
losses in return indeed, when they did so, it was 
mainly with shell, not with rifle fire. In fact, Sir 
John French's infantry was doing such execution in 
the serried ranks of their enemies that it was a 
pleasure to go on, so that when Sir John French 
suddenly received in the late afternoon the message 
from General Joflre, advising him of the 5th French 
army's retirement, and of the number of German 
corps west of Charleroi, whose presence was now 
becoming a danger, he felt aggrieved, and even 
incredulous as to the second part of the message. 
To see victory within your grasp and to have to 
turn your back upon it through no fault of your 
own is a most painful and dramatic situation, 



102 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

savouring of the tragic. Sir John was loth to 
break off an action that had started so well. He 
must have felt like the Iron Duke at Waterloo 
" What will they think of us in England ! " if we 
retire before the very first onslaught of the Prus- 
sians ? And he probably hoped that something 
would turn up or at least that General Joffre was 
misinformed as to the strength of the Germans in 
the north. 

Sir John French did not break off the action, 
although he made ready to do so in his mind should 
it become absolutely necessary. Instead he sent 
up his flying men to reconnoitre. 

But General Joffre was quite well informed ; in 
fact the information he had as to the strength of the 
Germans formed the base of his original plan of 
enticing the German wing as far west as possible 
in order to crush it. But now that, through the 
fault of a blundering subordinate, he had lost his 
pivot on the Meuse, his plan not only could not be 
carried out, but the German strength west of the 
Meuse became very disadvantageous to the Allies. 
The Germans could not cut off the French left wing, 
but they might now surround it, as well as the 
British. 

The delay in the retirement of the British forces 
was almost fatal. The German commanders had, 
since that morning of the 23rd of August, located 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 103 

the exact positions of Sir John French's army 
and they were closing in on it from north, east, and 
west. The 7th corps (Bulow) was hurrying forward 
from Nivelles. The 4th corps (Kluck) was moving 
down from Ath ; the 2nd corps (Kluck) was now 
engaged at Tournai with a division of French 
Territorials, and was further delayed there by the 
news of a great cavalry fight north of Lille, near 
Courtrai. This cavalry fight, in which the nephew of 
the Kaiser, Count von Schwerin, was taken prisoner, 
gave Kluck the idea that strong French forces were 
stationed at Lille and even along the Scheldt 
and these forces might take him in flank and render 
his advance southwards dangerous. Kluck only 
found out his mistake on the next day, the 24th of 
August ; a fight had indeed occurred between a 
French cavalry detachment based on Lille and 
squadrons of Uhlans who were scouring the banks 
of the Lys, but the reconnoitring forces of Uhlans, 
whose action extended as far as the neighbourhood 
of Ostend, did not report having seen any consider- 
able bodies of the enemy west of the Scheldt ; but 
by this time Sir John French had begun his retro- 
grade movement from Mons. The advanced guard 
of the German 2nd corps only reached Conde that 
day, the objective of this corps being Valenciennes. 
So anxious was Kluck to forestall the English that 
he gave his troops no rest, and pressed his cavalry 



104 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

forward and ever forward in the direction of 
Bouchain and Cambrai. He must have regretted 
bitterly his delay at Tournai. Such an opportunity 
might never come again. Yet, hoping against hope, 
he still thought he held the English within his grasp, 
for he received hourly messages from the other 
German commanders that the English were " pinned* ' 
at Mons, that they could not retire, and that the 
9th German corps, battered as it was, and probably 
the 10th, also battered at Charleroi, would reach 
Maubeuge before the British did ! 

This calculation was wholly founded on the 
assumption that the French, being in a difficult 
corner themselves between the Sambre and the 
Meuse, would make an uninterrupted flight to their 
own frontier, leaving their allies to their fate. This 
withdrawal of the French would make room for 
the German corps mentioned to deploy round the 
British, and would have left the passage quite free 
along both banks of the Sambre to the fortress of 
Maubeuge. 

But if the Germans thought the French were 
really defeated in the full sense of the term, they 
were sadly mistaken ; and if they further thought, 
as they most likely did, that General Jonre would 
be capable of such an infamy as to leave the British 
in the lurch, they were still more mistaken. 

During the night of the 23rd to the 24th the 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 105 

French 5th army stopped in its retirement on the 
line Beaumont-Givet and, partly to relieve the 
enormous pressure brought to bear on the English 
at Mons, partly to prevent the Germans from 
reaching Maubeuge before the English had fallen 
back on to it, they held on like grim death to that 
line, and delivered furious counter-attacks. The 
counter-attack delivered by the Algerian division 
against the Prussian Guards, who had crossed the 
Meuse at Dinant, will be remembered in all time, 
for the German " corps d* elite " suffered tremendous 
casualties thereat, and lost its commander, Baron 
von Plattenberg. One German regiment alone had 
1,800 men placed " hors de combat." But the 
African troops lost heavily themselves. The other 
counter-attack, perhaps more important from the 
point of view of the English, was less noticed as it 
was delivered by a corps of the line the 1st French 
corps whose commander, Franchet d'Esperey, was 
a leader of the stamp of Sarrail, who had saved the 
situation in the Ardennes by his brilliant stroke at 
Virton. 

Franchet d'Esperey led his troops with con- 
summate mastery, and nearly all the villages south 
of Charleroi, almost right up to that place, were 
recaptured. They could not be held for long ; but 
the main end was attained the British and the 
Germans reached Maubeuge simultaneously. 



106 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Franchet d'Esperey was immediately given the 
command of the 5th army in place of the dismissed 
Larenzac. 

It is only fair to say here that even with the 
strategic support of the French just described, not to 
mention a good deal of tactical work along the banks 
of the Sambre on the 23rd and 24th of August by 
General Sordet and the 18th French corps, the 
British army, outnumbered as it was and outflanked, 
could never have extricated itself from its terrible 
position if its commander and corps commanders 
had not been such masters of tactics as they were. 
In Sir John French, Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, and 
Sir Douglas Haig, Britain had a trio of men to whom 
the fate of an army could well be entrusted and 
it is also to be confessed that if France had had such 
a trio at the head of the 5th army the battles of 
Mons and Charleroi would have been great and 
decisive victories. 

But, and this is a point too often forgotten by 
the critics there were few generals in the French 
army who had seen active service. What was true 
of the generals was also true of the rank and file. 
The British troops consisted mainly of long-service 
men, and they were led by generals and officers 
whose ability had been tested in the heat of battle, 
in South Africa, in India and elsewhere. For that 
reason there has probably never been a better tactical 



GERMANS WALK INTO JOFFRE'S TRAP 107 

unit in the field than the British army that stood 
against the Germans at Mons. 

The tactical methods of Sir John French in his 
retirement from his advanced positions at Mons are 
interesting. First of all, seeing the preponderance 
of German cavalry in the west, Sir John quickly 
transferred the main part of his mounted troops 
from his right wing to his left, and the fine squadrons 
of General Allenby, by their repeated charges 
against the flank of the enemy, relieved much pres- 
sure from Smith-Dorrien's corps as it fell back south 
of Mons. Then, to prevent a " jamming " of this 
corps with that of Douglas Haig's, which had evacu- 
ated Binche, Sir John directed a couple, or " cross " 
counter-attacks by Haig's two divisions, as if to 
retake Binche from south and west. This not only 
stayed the enemy's advance in that quarter, but left 
enough space to the 1st corps to keep fully deployed 
and thus to effect its retrograde movement without 
confusion. 

Thus Sir John French, ably seconded by his 
corps and divisional commanders, was able to retire 
on the evening of the 24th of August on the line 
Jenlain-Maubeuge, with the very minimum of losses 
for an operation of the kind. 

The losses of the British in men during the four 
days' fighting (August 23-26) was from 6,000 to 8,000. 
Those of the 5th French army during the same 



108 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

period were variously computed at 20,000 to 30,000, 
whilst Kluck, Bulow and Hausen are said to have 
lost as many as 80,000 men, the majority of casual- 
ties being sustained in front of the British lines. 

But the danger was not past, and whilst the French 
kept at bay the Germans on their frontier line, the 
British were to sustain further south another 
onslaught more formidable than the first. 




MAP 11. 



to /ace ^>a^e 109. 






CHAPTER XI 

THE GERMANS, BAULKED OF THEIR SCHEME TO TRAP 
THE FRENCH IN BELGIUM, AND ELUDING THE 
FRENCH TRAP, AND COMPELLED TO A PARALLEL 
FIGHT, SEEK TO CUT OFF AND ENVELOP THE 
BRITISH WING OF THE LINE AND FALL, THE 
BRITISH GETTING TOUCH WITH THE FRENCH LINE 
TO RIGHT AND LEFT 

THE 25th of August marks the abortion of all the 
initial plans of Germany. 

On this date the first German attempt against the 
French eastern line of defence failed definitely. 
The Crown Prince of Germany was held up, and even 
driven back, by General Sarrail in the Woevre and 
in Belgian Luxembourg ; the Grand Duke of Wur- 
temberg did not pin down and surround de Langle's 
army in the Ardennes, as he had hoped; Hausen 
and Bulow failed to cut off or crush the 5th French 
army between the Sambre and the Meuse ; and, 
finally, Kluck and Bulow were unable to pin the 
British to their line of Mons and to cut off their 
retreat on Maubeuge. 

Thus, after high hopes of an early and decisive 
victory, the Germans were on French soil without 



110 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

having effected anything except the costly reduc- 
tion of a couple of fortresses and the occupation of 
ground which was now strewn with their slain and 
littered with their wrecked war material. Towns 
and villages were in flames behind them ; in the 
more important localities the ruthless invader 
could levy contributions of war and obtain supplies. 
He was, in fact, enjoying the advantages of fighting 
in the enemy's territory ; but there his strategic 
gains ended, for the opposed armies which, with 
unparalleled confidence, he had set out to destroy, 
were intact, unbroken, and, moreover, had suffered 
less. 

In the north, round Antwerp, the Belgians were 
stoutly holding their own and even assuming offen- 
sive operations ; in the west, at Ostend, a British 
auxiliary force was landing to give the Belgians 
support, and thereby hampering the course of 
German strategy ; in the south, all along the French 
frontier, numerous, superb armies were keeping the 
enemy at bay ; whilst at Luneville the grim struggle 
along the banks of the Meurthe and the Moselle was 
distinctly turning to the advantage of the French. 

The German commanders must now have been 
sitting uneasily in their saddles. They had cal- 
culated upon a rapid and overwhelming success, a 
success which would have solved their problem at 
once and made the invasion of France rather a 



GERMANS BAULKED 111 

pleasure than a task. But somehow this success 
had been denied them. Every one of their strokes 
had, so far, miscarried, not through the mishandling 
of affairs by subaltern leaders, since tactical profit 
had been achieved in almost every quarter of the 
field, but through the surprising, disconcerting, 
uncanny strategy of the man called Joffre Joffre, 
a Frenchman, and a southern Frenchman at that ! 
therefore a man who, from the German point of 
view, should have proved unbalanced of mind and 
of excitable disposition, whereas the handling of his 
armies showed coolness and determination. 

Summing up events since that extraordinary 
commander had struck so unexpectedly in Alsace, 
the German Staff were bound to admit at their war 
councils that they still found themselves, as far as 
strategic results were concerned, at the starting- 
point ; that the tables were slowly but perceptibly 
being turned against them, and that the project of 
conquering and subduing France was a far more 
formidable affair than had at first been contem- 
plated. The invaders could not, as they did in 1870, 
now make use of the convenient French eastern 
line of railways ; and, without these shorter lines 
of communication Paris, the ultimate German goal 
in this campaign, could not be directly approached, 
except from the north, and it followed that, before 
the investment of the French capital could take 



112 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

place, the French forces in the field must be dis 
posed of, captured or destroyed ; otherwise, an 
attack on such a huge armed camp as the French 
capital would undoubtedly prove a most dangerous 
enterprise, and constitute a powerful moral factor 
in favour of the undefeated French troops. The 
German Staff still remembered how well the badly- 
trained " mobiles " of France had fought in 1870 
whilst Paris was being besieged. 

Had the Crown Prince of Bavaria succeeded in 
piercing the Mirecourt gap, and had the Crown 
Prince of Germany, with his six army corps, not 
been overthrown at the very gate of Verdun, it 
would have been possible for the Germans to cut 
off the communications of the French armies of 
the north. As it was, on the 25th of August the 
German Staff had lost all hope of achieving anything 
of the kind, and they found themselves compelled 
instead to adopt an entirely new alternative 
grandiose, colossal in its conception, but doomed to 
failure because, like all the alternatives that had 
gone before, it left out of account the strategic 
power and possibilities of their opponents. If 
Germany had had an enemy that simply did what 
she wanted done, or had been fighting the newspaper 
" experts," then all had gone well for Germany. 

The new plan was really a variation of the first, 
but it aimed, as far as the French northern armies 



GERMANS BAULKED 113 

were concerned, at a simple envelopment. When, 
under the stress of events, it was elaborated, this 
envelopment was meant to take place on the 
Falaises and the plains of Champagne that is to 
say, a long way from Paris, which shows the 
popular conception of the German " march to 
Paris " to have been quite wrong, since the German 
leaders had no intention whatsoever of attacking 
the French capital in the teeth of huge, enterprising, 
and unbeaten armies. 

This " enveloping " alternative was compelled 
upon the Germans, because the French and British 
retirement, from the Sambre and Mons, had drawn 
on the German armies, against the wish of their 
leaders, to a strictly parallel line of attack. Al- 
though they might still continue, as they were 
doing, to try and make " incisions " at various 
points trying to pierce the French line on the 
Meuse, in the Woevre, and in Lorraine these 
" gnawing tactics " had not the sufficiency and the 
weight of great flank attacks like that of von 
Hausen at Dinant on the 23rd, or the abortive 
effort of the Crown Prince on the same day in the 
Ardennes and the Woevre. Whereas such flank 
attacks had almost constituted important ends in 
themselves, the new and smaller efforts were only 
part of a more ambitious plan. The French armies 
of Joffre, being now well on a parallel with the 
II 



114 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Germans, had no flanks open to attack, except 
at both extremities. But the French right flank 
rested on strong obstacles ; the left flank only, 
which rested on nothing, was somewhat exposed, 
and, by consequence, it was on the French left that 
the German alternative alone could be applied, for 
the Germans had there a pronounced superiority in 
numbers, a superiority which might still more have 
been increased if Joffre's unexpected strategic 
move of holding on to the line Beaumont-Givet 
after the retirement from Dinant and the Sambre 
had not considerably minimised this superiority. 

The German corps, which had crossed both rivers 
simultaneously, found themselves jammed and 
mixed up in a somewhat restricted space. In the 
parallelogram, Charleroi-Namur-Dinant-Beaumont, 
there were, on the 24th and 25th of August, 
at least five German corps vainly endeavouring to 
deploy. A great deal of confusion ensued, princi- 
pally amongst the Saxons, whole columns going 
astray and intermixing with each other. At one 
moment there were batteries being directed to the 
Sambre from Dinant ! It was this confusion which 
enabled part of the garrison of Namur to escape 
and join the French lines near Mariembourg. At 
night time they were probably mistaken for German 
troops. 

Thus, of all the German strength there gathered 






GERMANS BAULKED 115 

together, no more than about half could effectively 
come into play, and that too in but a very hap- 
hazard, unmethodical fashion. Their losses were, 
in consequence, greater than before, and had not 
General Jofire been so threatened further west, he 
might have taken advantage of the enemy's plight 
and won some considerable victory. 

The Germans and the English, as we have seen, 
reached the position of Maubeuge together on the 
evening of the 24th of August. At that moment 
Kluck's western corps (the 2nd), delayed at Tournai, 
was only approaching Valenciennes ; but his cavalry 
was much in advance and reached Bouchain on the 
next day. So Kluck still had a chance of out- 
flanking Sir John French and of justifying the rather 
hasty reports which at that time dazzled the Ger- 
man public. The German commander knew from 
history that the British were firm on the defensive, 
and that they lacked imagination and elasticity of 
movement ; already at Mons they had stood their 
ground longer than necessary, and had narrowly 
escaped being surrounded in consequence. With 
the fortress of Maubeuge on their right, and with 
such tactical support as the French might feel 
bound to give them,, the German commanders 
calculated upon the English standing their ground 
and holding on still longer at the new position, and 
thus they would be surrounded, gathered into and 



GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

captured in Maubeuge itself, which in this case 
would become another Metz. So sure were the 
German commanders that this would happen that 
they did not hesitate to announce in their glowing 
reports the eventual and inevitable destruction of 
the British army, which was to be the prelude, of 
course, to the definite envelopment and destruc- 
tion of the French armies themselves. 

But Sir John French disappointed all these 
dreams ; for, better acquainted now with the 
situation than he had been, he refused to be nailed 
down to his new positions or to wait to be enveloped 
by the German corps acting from Valenciennes. 
No doubt he would have preferred to stand ; and 
on the 25th of August, whilst hard pressed near 
Maubeuge, he made an appeal to General Sordet, 
who commanded a cavalry corps on his right at 
Avesnes, for support ; but General Sordet could 
not or would not act, and thereby gave good 
grounds for the British commander to continue 
his retirement. The support of General Sordet, 
it must be pointed out, if it had been given, would 
not have been of much help to Sir John French. 
Apart from the fact that his horses were practically 
exhausted after their three weeks of hard and costly 
work on the Sambre and the Meuse, General Sordet 
was just going to be transferred from the 5th French 
army to the 6th army on the l-eft of the English, 



GERMANS BAULKED 117 

where German mounted troops were in great 
preponderance. From Avesnes General Sordet 
had a long way to go in order to find suitable 
ground for cavalry work. He had in his front the 
broken country of the valley of the Sambre, and the 
fortress of Maubeuge blazing away with all its 
guns at the advancing Germans ; and on his left 
the vast forest of Mormal, where even infantry, to 
say nothing of cavalry or artillery, could not move 
about freely. 

In the way of support, General d'Amade, acting 
from Arras, where he was forming one reserve corps 
appertaining to the 6th army, was to do much better 
and to prove a valuable ally. He did not leave 
Arras too soon, seeing the comparative insignificance 
of the detachment he had in hand ; but he did not 
leave Arras so late as is generally thought. The 
French columns left the town on the night of the 
24th to the 25th of August that is to say, when 
the English were still on the line Jenlain-Maubeuge 
and one of his columns was able to meet on the 
noon of the 25th the German cavalry division which 
had reached Bouchain. This German cavalry 
division was mown down by the French guns and 
defeated and Kluck, hearing of the disaster and 
fearing a flank attack which might develop as he 
advanced against the English, again altered the 
objective of his 2nd corps, which, from Valenciennes, 



118 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

marched south-westwards on Cambrai, and from 
thence on the 26th divided itself into two portions, 
two divisions advancing against D'Amade near 
Bapaume, and the 3rd division moving against 
the English at Le Gateau. Thus the strategic 
support of D'Amade meant two German divisions 
less against the British than would otherwise have 
been the case. It remains to add that the English 
army was now stronger than it had been at Mons, 
having been joined by a detached brigade the 
19th at Valenciennes on the 24th, and by a full 
division the 4th at Solesmes on the day following. 
Whereas, to counterbalance this increase and the 
weight of metal from the guns of the fortress of 
Maubeuge, the Germans, as we have seen, could only 
bring on the single division of the 2nd corps these 
troops not getting into contact until the 26th of 
August on the line Caudry-Solesmes. 

The German assault on this line, however, was 
particularly formidable. There were seven German 
divisions there against three English divisions and 
a brigade. 

Here there was an interesting development the 
artillery of the German 9th corps, not being able 
to negotiate the difficulties of the ground up the 
valley of the Sambre and along the forest of Mormal, 
was sent a roundabout way west of the forest, and 
the German generals took the opportunity of " mass- 



GERMANS BAULKED 119 

ing " it with the artillery of the 4th and 7th corps 
against Smith-Dorrien's corps. Thus it came 
about that the English artillery at Le Cateau was 
frightfully outnumbered ; and Sir John French 
thought he was attacked all along the line by five 
German corps, whereas there were exactly three 
corps and a division. 

With such a superiority, however a superiority of 
a little over two to one in men, and three to one in 
artillery the English army should have been 
crushed, and must have been had their tactics not 
been so fine and their musketry above all praise. The 
men stood firm and continued to inflict terrible losses 
on the massed Germans. In the end, however, they 
must have succumbed if Sir John French had not 
broken off the combat and decided to retire behind 
the Somme in order to keep closer touch with the 
French on both sides of him. This was not easily 
done, the German game being to nail down the 
English, and to sever their connection with the 
French, in order to surround them with what reserves 
they had still in hand after their enormous losses. 
Both the English corps commanders, however, rose 
to the occasion and, wisely abandoning all cumbrous 
material, they successfully extricated their worn- 
out troops from the grip of the German talons. 

By this time the Germans themselves were thor- 
oughly exhausted, not only here but all along the 



120 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

line from Cambrai to the Woevre. To what extent 
we shall see further on. For the moment it is only 
necessary to make clear the relation of Sir John 
French's army to the strategic action of the French 
armies on both his wings. 

It will be remembered that at the time of mobilisa- 
tion General Joffre had provided for the formation 
of a 6th army. Towards the 20th of August this 
army was being collected partly at Compiegne in 
order to leave free the communications of the 
English in the north and partly at Lille and Arras. 
General Joffre had intended to use it as an active 
force in Belgium if he had won the victory there, or 
as a powerful reserve if he found himself outnumbered 
and forced to retreat. The northern divisions were 
nothing to boast of, being, with the exception of 
cavalry and artillery, entirely composed of Terri- 
torials. But the two first line army corps the 4th 
and the 7th of which the 7th, from Alsace, had 
fought at Mulhausen were fine troops. Another 
reserve corps belonging to the same army was being 
collected near Paris ; and the Tunis division, first- 
rate troops, were on the way to join it. We thus 
see that the effectives meant to reinforce the great 
contingents operating in the north were, owing to 
circumstances, a good deal scattered. The problem 
for General Joffre was how to bring them together 
in the best conditions possible and the most telling 



GERMANS BAULKED 121 

manner on the strategy of the invader. They were 
destined, however, through rapidity of the develop- 
ments in the north, to be brought into battle piece- 
meal until an opportunity presented itself for a 
great collective effort. 

When d'Amade, with two divisions, left Arras to 
outflank Kluck at Cambrai, the first line corps of the 
French 6th army were only just leaving their base 
for the north. On the 26th of August it was found 
that, if these corps continued on the way chosen, 
hopeless confusion would ensue, the retreating armies 
having need of all the roads and the railway lines 
in their rear. These corps, therefore, had to return 
and take a circuitous route by Creil and Beauvais 
towards Amiens. Thus the Territorial divisions in 
the north were left to deal with the situation by 
themselves as best they could. 

They did not do so badly after all. At Tournai, 
on the 23rd of August, a few battalions only, with 
no artillery, faced most steadily a full German army 
corps ; and they retired on Lille in good order. 
D'Amade's divisions, on the 26th, stood their 
ground during a whole day a ainst an equal number 
of German first-line troops ; and later, on the 27th, 
with the help of the English 4th division, now 
retreating from Solesmes, and General Sordet's 
cavalry corps, now transferred from the 5th to the 
6th, the French Territorials, who had lost heavily, 



122 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

were able to drive back Kluck's right wing on 
Cambrai. The connection between the English 
army and the 6th French army on its left was 
definitely established on this day (27th). 

The English right wing, as is known, had been in 
earlier touch with the 5th French army ; but in the 
retirement from the Sambre this touch had been lost, 
and the Germans were doing their utmost on the 
25th to sever it altogether, as this breach would 
have enabled them to envelop the English from the 
east. But partly through the exhaustion of the 
advancing Germans, and partly through the fine work 
of the French reserve divisions on the right of the 
British, this breach did not come about. These 
French divisions on the English right, instead of 
retreating in front of the German 10th corps straight 
backwards on to Hirson, took an oblique line of 
retreat through Avesnes towards Landrecies ; and in 
spite of the efforts of the German commanders they 
managed to re-establish their connection with 
Douglas Haig's corps east and south of Maroilles 
on the night of the 25-26th. It would be difficult 
to say whether the French tactics near Avesnes 
and Maroilles relieved much pressure from the 
English 1st corps at Landrecies ; as Sir John French 
put it in his despatch it was chiefly owing to Haig's 
efforts that the 1st corps extricated itself from a 
dangerous position ; but that the said French 



GERMANS BAULKED 123 

tactics prevented the Germans from effecting a 
turning movement that might have been proved 
fatal there can be no shadow of a doubt ; and 
considering that it was the work of Territorials 
tired out by heavy fighting on a considerable scale, 
it was an achievement worthy of high praise. 



CHAPTER XII 

AFTER THEIR STRATEGIC CHECK AT CAMBRAI THE 
GERMAN STAFF RESUME, MORE TO THE WEST, 
THEIR ENVELOPING MOVEMENT 

THE great wave of the German attacks west of the 
Meuse had broken itself against an indomitable 
rock ; the attempt at a wide turning movement 
had failed ; whilst in the Ardennes, in the Woevre, 
in Lorraine, events were distinctly turning in favour 
of the French. Such in concise terms would give 
a full view of the German disappointment on 
August 26-27. 

The disappointment cannot be exaggerated. We 
are, of course, treating of the view of the German 
General Staff, and not that of the common soldiers, 
who thought they were winning as long as they were 
advancing, nor of the people at home who were 
ignorant of strategy or were kept in the dark as 
to the true state of affairs the views of the 
German Staff, be it said, when in secret council 
and treating of things as they really stood, and 
weighing values, not writing advertisements for 
Berlin. 

124 




MAP 12. 



To face page 124. 



CHECK AT CAMBRAI 125 

The German Staff knew this that in modern 
warfare, with the huge numbers of men employed 
and with a very complex system of tactics, it is 
extremely difficult, if not actually impossible, after 
the first shocks, to deliver decisive blows or to get a 
hold on the enemy's lines of communications. The 
Germans had had the chance of effecting this. 
After Saarburg and the battles in the Ardennes 
and on the Sambre they had strained every nerve 
to do so and to reap the maximum of profit out of 
those victories, but every time the strategy of 
Joffre had thwarted them. The redistribution of 
their forces, imposed on them from the very 
beginning, had prevented them from obtaining a 
crushing superiority of numbers at any vital point. 
Joffre, indeed, had himself failed on the Sambre 
to achieve his own immediate ends, but his failure 
mattered far less to France and her Allies, who had 
not set out to conquer the Germans in a minimum 
of time, and were quite content to play a waiting 
game, whilst the Germans, on the contrary, were 
absolutely in earnest in their full expectation of 
conclusive results after the first three weeks of the 
campaign. The only conclusive results, so far, 
were hecatombs of German dead, whilst for them 
the strategic horizon was becoming daily darker 
and darker. Everything had been tried, alternative 
had succeeded alternative, and with the abortion 



126 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

of every new plan compelled upon them by the 
master-mind that controlled the allied forces, the 
German Staff sank deeper and deeper into unfore- 
seen difficulties. They had lost the initiative, and 
they knew it ; they knew also that the initiative, 
once lost, cannot be regained except through a 
strategic mistake committed by the foe. 

But Joffre was committing no mistakes. Backed 
by a people to whom invasion was no new thing, 
and who were bent on securing victory at any cost, 
material or moral, the great leader was able to work 
serenely in that full equanimity and placidity of 
mind which is essential to the attainment of great 
ends. 

The German commanders were not yet aware of 
this, as they still entertained the hope that the 
French commander's will would be overruled by 
the sentiment of the nation ; that he would feel 
compelled to risk a general and decisive action on 
doubtful lines in the hope of saving the country 
from total invasion. It was one thing to evacuate 
Alsace in order to prevent the Germans from 
forcing the gap at Mirecourt ; it was another 
thing to abandon all northern France to the in- 
vader on the forlorn quest of new lines further 
back where the issue might be, after all, just as 
problematical as in the north. Had the German 
leaders been better acquainted with the real char- 



CHECK At CAMBRAI 127 

acter of Joffre, and the extent and nature of the 
preparations that he was making behind his front, 
they would have come to a different conclusion, 
and, after Cambrai, they would have sensibly 
altered their own course of action. 

The first attempt at an enveloping movement 
on a large scale had failed, as we have seen, on 
account of the French forces which the 2nd German 
corps, in its march upon Valenciennes to Cambrai, 
had suddenly found on its front. These forces 
the reserve divisions under d'Amade had hurried 
from Arras eastwards, and had practically out- 
flanked the Germans themselves. D'Amade's army 
corps was not strong enough to turn the tide of 
invasion, so that the battle itself was lost to the 
Allies ; but Kluck's manoeuvre was thwarted, and 
this was the main thing to be accomplished. Now 
Kluck had the means of resuming the same man- 
oeuvre further west, and here we come to the actual 
parting of the ways as far as German strategy is 
concerned. It can even be stated, without fear of 
contradiction, that here the issue of the war was 
definitely settled, although no one could possibly 
have been aware of it at the time. At the very 
moment when some of the allied newspapers were 
full of the most calamitous details, the issue of the 
campaign was already a foregone conclusion. The 
fact was only going to be disclosed some days later, 



128 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

and it would take ages even for the cleverest men to 
realise it, but it is nevertheless a fact. The German 
Staff, by sticking to a measure which was already 
anticipated by Joffre, definitely lost all chances of 
winning the war. Their only excuse in the light of 
military criticism was that they were in desperate 
strategic plight, for they had failed to break, sur- 
round or disperse the armies of their enemies. 
The parallel positions of the struggling forces on 
such a wide front precluded other means of effective 
forward action than the one the Germans employed, 
but if their leaders had not been, or felt, so pressed 
for time, if they had not wished to bring on at all 
costs a rapid decision in France, they might have 
seized a new and more advantageous alternative 
which lay within their grasp : this was to make an 
end, there and then, of the business at Antwerp 
to eliminate the Belgian army as a fighting 
force, and thus to obtain not only a great moral 
profit, but also, immediately afterwards, a crush- 
ing superiority of numbers so much needed in 
France. 

In order to do this it would have been necessary 
to withdraw northwards one of the German corps 
which had been hurried south from Brussels to par- 
ticipate in the aforesaid turning movement. This 
corps was the 2nd reserve of Kluck, which ap- 
proached Lille on the 24th, and entered that city 



CHECK AT CAMBRAI 129 

without opposition on the 25th, the French Terri- 
torials of General Perrin, which had fought at 
Tournai previously, having evacuated Lille after, 
by decree of Government, it was declared an open 
town. On the 26th of August this German corps 
was marching on Arras ; the German Staff judged 
then that it was too late to bring it back again. 
Yet, on the 24th, when the corps in question was 
still in Belgium, the Belgians at Antwerp, finding 
that the Germans on their front were keeping on 
the defensive, attacked them in a most energetic 
manner, and drove them back as far as Louvain. 
The German troops of occupation in Brussels were 
brought back quickly northwards and they barely 
saved the situation. Had the German 2nd reserve 
corps been there too, the Belgians must have 
suffered a serious disaster. As it was, the Germans 
were content to sack Louvain on the flimsy pretext 
of quelling a civilian rising, and they kept to their 
resolve of staking everything on their enveloping 
policy in France. This resolve was based on the 
assumption that Joffre had no more reserves on his 
left to bring into play, or else that, in bringing them 
up, if he could do so in time, he would weaken some 
other part of his line with disastrous results to him- 
self. There were other grounds, such as the belief 
that the French commander would risk a general 
action where he stood. Developments all along the 



130 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

line, from St. Quentin eastwards, helped to foster 
this impression. 

The French counter-offensive in the Ardennes 
and the Woevre, begun on or about the 24th of 
August, and continued up to the 2 6-2 7th, were 
strong indications, to the German mind, that the 
Allies would not retire further than the lines of the 
Somme and the Oise, and would fight out the issue 
there. This calculation was made by the German 
Staff on the 27th, when the 2nd reserve corps had 
reached Arras, and General d'Amade was falling 
back on Amiens. The events of the following days 
strengthened that impression, and Kluck's western 
corps were kept on the move at a frightful speed. 
So intent were the German leaders on the pursuit 
of the course of action entered upon, and so certain 
were they that victory lay at last within their 
grasp in northern France, that it did not occur to 
them to seize and occupy the French seaports of 
Calais, Boulogne and Havre. They left these places 
behind them as so much useless, cumbersome, im- 
pedimenta. Beyond d'Amade 's columns in the 
west they saw nothing, and to his rear they did not 
suppose that there was much, being firmly con- 
vinced that France had already done her utmost, 
and that all her mobilised elements had already 
been placed in the fighting line. Another motive 
prompted the German leaders to this breakneck 



CHECK AT CAMBRAI 131 

race to disaster ; the anniversary of Sedan was at 
hand. A great surrender of French or English 
troops must take place on that day, when the 
much-trumpeted invincibility of the German 
legions would be once more blazoned across the 
world. 

The events which convinced the German Staff 
that Joffre would accept a general action in the 
north, and let himself be surrounded there, are 
little known to the world. These were the great 
counter-strokes which Joffre delivered with his centre 
armies on the 28th, the 29th and the 30th of August. 
At that time the German 2nd reserve corps was 
approaching Amiens, and a set of disconnected 
actions was being fought east of that city in the 
bend of the Somme between Amiens and St. Quentin. 
The pressure in that part was not so great as it 
appeared, but the British army was thoroughly ex- 
hausted, and d'Amade's divisions on the left of the 
British were not in a fitter state for battle. The 
German corps, which had found themselves jammed 
between the Sambre and the Meuse on the 24th of 
August, had been released as they were slipping 
westwards and gradually getting into line, thus 
increasing the preponderance of German numbers 
in the western part of the field. The 6th French 
army was coming up, but after its journeyings 
backwards and forwards~as already shown, it could 



132 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

not reach the line of the Somme before the Germans 
did. And if the Germans entered Amiens, then the 
retreat of the 6th French army would become im- 
perative ; so Joffre, although he had already made 
up his mind to retreat, and, in consequence, had 
stopped the offensive in the Ardennes, accelerated 
the action of the 4th army on the Meuse, and sharply 
brought forward the 5th army against those Ger- 
man corps that were slipping westward from the 
north along the Oise. The battles of Mezieres and 
Guise more particularly Guise can well be said 
to have saved Joffre's left wing from a disaster 
which at first appeared inevitable. 

It would be tedious to go into the tactical details 
of these battles. But it is as well to give a general 
view of them which will show their importance. 
The battle of Mezieres may be said to have begun 
on August 28th, although it was the continuation 
of incessant fighting which had been going on since 
the first French forward movement in the Ardennes 
had been checked, since when the Grand Duke of 
Wurtemberg had been bent on the destruction of 
de Langle's army. This army of de Langle's had 
suffered less in the first shock than that of Ruffey 
on its right. It had retreated, quickly reorganised, 
and resumed the advance at the same moment that 
Sarrail, with the 6th corps, was checking the Crown 
Prince at Virton and in the Woevre Then de 



CHECK AT CAMBRAI 133 

Langle, having reached on the 26th the line Paliseul- 
Neufchateau, received orders from Joffre to fall 
back. He did so just in time ; for Hausen, on the 
left bank of the Meuse, had crossed into France and 
could cut off the 4th army. Thereupon Wurtemberg 
advanced once more, and in the teeth of very strong 
opposition forced the crossings of the Meuse at 
Fumay and Charleville, and, later on, at Mezieres 
and Sedan. It was in the region Launoy-Signy 
1'Abbaye, south of those places, that a considerable 
action developed on the 28th. De Langle was out- 
numbered, having in his front the whole of the 
German 4th army (at least five army corps), and 
against his left three of von Hausen's corps (Saxons). 
The success of the 5th army at Guise, however, 
helped de Langle to hold back the Saxons with an 
inconsiderable portion of his forces ; whilst, with 
his right and centre, he struck heavily at Wurtem- 
berg. The victory was complete. On the 29th 
Wurtemberg's advance came to a standstill ; on 
the 30th his columns were rolled up, and on the next 
day his whole army was back again in great disorder 
across the Meuse. (See the Official German Report 
to date.) 

About that date the Crown Prince of Germany 
was also trying to cross the Meuse above Verdun. 
The 3rd French army, now under General Sarrail, 
had withdrawn by the orders of Joffre, in conjunc- 



134 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

tion with the 4th army, to the left bank of the river. 
Its task was to defend the approaches to Verdun, 
the most important French frontier fortress. The 
Crown Prince, after his early disappointments in 
the Woevre and his severe defeat at Virton, had 
become very wary. Besides, he had now to conform 
to the new plan, which aimed at the envelopment of 
the French armies from the west. So he made no 
further effort to " rush " the fortress, as he had 
tried to do when outflanking the 3rd French army 
at Longuyon and at Spincourt on August 23. He 
mainly endeavoured to cross the Meuse with the 
object of surrounding Sarrail's army in Verdun 
later on. His attempts, as long as the French 
defended the river, were unsuccessful and costly. 
A whole infantry regiment and a cavalry division 
were almost annihilated at Dun, near Stenay, on 
the 30th of August ; whilst big sorties from Verdun 
kept harassing the Crown Prince on his flank. It 
was only when Sarrail joined in the Great Retreat 
and followed the retrograde movements of the 
western armies that the 5th German army was able 
to cross the Meuse. 

We now come to the important battle of Guise. 
It was less disputed than that of Mezieres, but was 
of far greater consequence to the Allies . The French 
5th army, which had resumed touch on the 26th 
with the British, east of Landrecies, had fallen back 



CHECK, AT CAMBRAI 135 

behind the Oise on the 27th, closely pursued by 
part of Hausen's forces. There was a comparative 
lull on that day and the next along that portion of 
the line, and it looked as if the Saxon army had not 
yet recovered from its severe shaking at and near 
Givet on the 24th. But what was happening was 
this : the confusion resulting from the " jamming " 
of the German corps between the Sambre and the 
Meuse on the 24th had imposed upon Hausen a 
change of front. The Guards corps (active and 
reserve), which originally formed his left wing, 
were now on his right, having crossed in their path 
the German 19th and 12th corps which advanced 
from Namur after the fall of that fortress (August 
25). The llth German corps, which had been in 
the centre and had fought at Dinant on the 23rd, 
found itself now on the left, in touch with Wurtem- 
berg's right wing above Rozoy. Thus, more by 
accident than by design, the German Guards corps 
came to increase the pressure that Kluck and 
Bulow were exercising on Joffre's left wing in 
the bend of the Somme between Amiens and St. 
Quentin. 

The Prussian Guards, however, did not reach as 
far as that. They had to their right, east of St. 
Quentin, Bulow's head corps, the 10th (Hanoverian). 
They were advancing on the front Guise-Ribemont ; 
and it was there, along the banks of the Oise, that 



136 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the 1st French corps crashed into their flank on the 
29th of August, while the 3rd French corps dealt 
as severe a blow to the 10th German corps near St. 
Quentin. On the next day the Prussian Guards 
were back over the Oise in confusion after having 
suffered considerable losses. This victory, as has 
been said, stopped the progress of the Saxon corps 
against de Langle's left wing and materially helped 
him to overthrow Wurtemberg at Mezieres. But 
it did more than that ; for Kluck and Bulow in 
the west became cautious, and this afforded some 
respite to the sorely tried English troops ; also it 
enabled the 6th French army to form its junction 
with the reserve divisions under d'Amade south 
of Amiens. 

Amiens, however, was reached on the 31st of 
August by the German 2nd reserve corps ; for 
although, in consequence of Guise, Kluck held back 
his other corps between Moreuil and Ham, he was 
more than ever determined on the completion of 
his turning movement. This mattered more to 
him than the immediate crushing of Joffre's left 
wing, and for that reason he did not view Guise 
and Mezieres in the light of disasters. On the con- 
trary, it seemed to him and his colleagues of the 
General Staff that Joffre would now be tempted to 
accept a general action, and the issue of the war 
would be decided there and then. September the 



CHECK AT CAMBRAI 137 

2nd, 3rd or 4th at the latest was to herald to the 
world the definite victory of the German arms, 
for by that time the German right wing would be 
opposite Paris, and Joflre's left wing would be 
surrounded in the north. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE GREAT RETREAT 

ON the matter of General Joffre's Great Retreat to 
the Marne there are two well-defined and contrary 
opinions, according to the bias of those who express 
these opinions. 

It is generally assumed by one group those who 
are in sympathy with the Allies that the Great 
Retreat was willingly started from the line of the 
Sambre on August 23 ; that General Joffre had 
planned it long beforehand, and that from his 
advanced positions in Belgium he deliberately led 
the invaders after him into the centre of France in 
order to defeat them there. This view is not wholly 
incorrect, but it leaves out of account the reasons 
that took the Franco-British armies into Belgium, 
and ignores the early plan of General Joffre for 
crushing the German right wing there. 

The opposite view is held by pro-Germans, who 
declare that the allied armies were borne down 
by superior German strategy and an irresistible 
avalanche of men, and that the allied armies would 
have finally succumbed on the Marne if the news of 




MAP 13. 



face page 138 



THE GREAT RETREAT 139 

the Russian victories in Galicia had not thwarted 
German designs in France ! It is useless to point 
out how absurd and false this opinion is, except by 
reminding the reader that the Germans were in 
superior numbers all along the line in France, that 
they had all the means of winning the victory if 
their strategy had been better than that of Joffre ; 
and that the news from the eastern theatre of war 
so far from having a deterrent effect on the Germans 
would only urge them to further and more strenuous 
efforts against the Allies in France and Belgium. 

Controversy on the subject, as on the vital issues 
of some of the campaigns in the past, is likely to 
last a long time, true impartiality being an almost 
unknown quality amongst the usual critics of war- 
fare, whose opinion is more often than not the mere 
assertion of half-baked knowledge. Besides, in this 
case there is a particular difficulty which the ordinary 
tyro in the study of strategics is not likely to over- 
come : the fact that both theories, whilst wrong in 
themselves, nevertheless contain some elements 
of truth, which shows how futile it is to present 
the strategic problem in a cut and dried sort of way, 
everything in war, as regards the prosecution of 
a plan of action, depending on a variety of circum- 
stances and on the material resources as well as 
the strategic ability of the belligerents, and being 
modified and even wholly changed in intention by 



140 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

such varying conditions as arise in the process of 
execution. 

It is quite true that General Joffre deliberately 
planned in his mind the Great Retreat, but he did 
so gradually, as events developed ; and he sought 
to adjust his moves to those of the enemy in a 
manner that would not entail the loss of the 
initiative, which he had conquered and which he 
strove hard to keep in order to compel his will upon 
the German commanders and thereby to win the 
campaign. For it did not matter to him nor to 
France where he won the campaign provided he 
won it. The loss of a battle, the giving up of a 
portion of territory had little weight in his considera- 
tions as long as he could keep his line of armies 
intact for the resumption of the offensive under the 
best conditions, at what time and where and when 
he chose. Thus one is able to grasp in its fulness 
the astounding achievement of the Great Retreat, 
one of the most masterly acts of war in history, 
and also to realise the important fact that the 
"offensive" is not necessarily the "initiative." 

Joffre entered the war in the full knowledge of 
the perfection to which a whole generation of vast 
and thorough preparation had brought the machinery 
of the Germans for war ; and with a clear under- 
standing that victory for that machinery depended 
on the swiftness of its employment and the crushing- 



THE GREAT RETREAT 141 

ness of its application, he made use of the German 
" rush and crush " to serve his own ends, doggedly 
refusing to fight on the positions the Germans 
desired, and separating all dangerous German 
concentrations, so that the very violence and rush 
of the German offensive must, in the long run, be 
turned to their disadvantage. 

When, through the tactical mistakes of one of 
his generals, Jofire failed to obtain the results he 
sought in Belgium, he wisely and coolly retired to 
the French frontier ; there the conditions, for a 
variety of reasons, not being good enough, he 
continued the retrograde movement, although at 
one moment, as we have seen, he had a chance of 
turning to account the difficulties in which the 
Germans found themselves between the Meuse 
and the Sambre. But to counterbalance this his 
left flank stood somewhat exposed ; the British 
were exhausted ; d'Amade's divisions, more to 
the west, were only just able to stand their ground ; 
and the rest of the 6th army, as has been explained, 
could not reach its positions in time. Finally, when 
Joffre's left wing was resting on the line of the 
Somme, and his centre armies were pushing back 
the Germans at Mezieres and Guise, the Germans 
resumed, more to the west, their turning movement 
which had been checked at Cambrai. They entered 
Amiens before the nucleus formations of the 6th 



142 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

French army had quite accomplished their junction 
south of that town with the reserves under d'Amade. 
And it was not certain that the 6th army, strong 
as it was and eager for battle, could have counter- 
acted the German move in a decisive manner. If 
it did not. the action, at best, would result in a 
draw, which would give time to the Germans to 
bring still more weight to bear at the western 
extremity of the line. The fact that a new French 
army, the 7th, under General Foch, the brilliant 
commander of the famous 20th corps who had so 
ably protected the retreat from Saarburg, was com- 
ing up to reinforce the left wing could not induce 
a strategist of the stamp of Joffre to accept a general 
engagement with one wing in process of reconcen- 
tration. Moreover, the 7th army, being principally 
made up of units brought over from Lorraine and 
Alsace, could not, for lack of time, forestall any 
further movement of the Germans between Amiens 
and the sea. It had perforce to deploy where it 
did, along the Aisne and slip in as best it could 
between the 4th and 5th armies. Finally, Joffre 
aimed not at half measures, but at something big 
and definite that would ensure him the possession 
of the initiative until the end ; and he saw his way, 
through a further sacrifice of the soil of his country 
to the incursion of a ruthless foe, of turning to vast 
account Kluck's stubborn desire to outflank him. 



THE GREAT RETREAT 143 

Joffre decided to abandon the lines of the Somme 
and the Oise and to retreat on Paris and the 
Marne. 

From that time, at any rate, the armies of France 
cannot be said to have been " borne down," since 
they carried out their retirement deliberately and 
with method, and from that moment also did 
General Joffre really " plan " his retreat to the 
Marne. Knowing the lure of Paris and acquainted 
with the methods of the German commanders, 
Joffre could calculate precisely upon what the 
Germans would do as if they had done it. And 
all the more so if they were under the delusion that 
they held the initiative and were conquering. The 
longer their delusion could be made to last the 
more terrible must be their overthrow. We shall 
see that it was the sudden awakening of Kluck at 
the eleventh hour that saved the German western 
armies from instant annihilation. The Great 
Retreat in itself was a gigantic task to perform, 
yet not so difficult to carry out in all its details as 
has been imagined, modern facilities for transport 
simplifying its execution. The moral of the troops, 
besides, was unimpaired. They had perfect con- 
fidence in their chiefs and in their own individual 
superiority over the foe, and, consequently, unshak- 
able faith in the final issue. The same might be 
said, naturally, of the Germans themselves, whose 



144 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

numbers, material equipment and unscrupulous 
ways of waging war constituted so many weighty 
points to their advantage, not to speak of a costly 
but effective system of tactics which seemed destined 
to carry everything before it. But this leads us 
back to strategics ; for numerical superiority, mach- 
inery, brute force, cunning devices in matters of 
detail are not sufficient to give one the victory. 
We will go further and say that even moral fortitude 
added to all that is not sufficient either. It is 
the high command, high strategy, in other words 
trained brains that win wars. 

Joffre made use of his armies as a skilled musician 
employs a perfect instrument ; and every time 
he struck he outwitted the enemy, who certainly 
never dreamed that such a leader could be born 
outside Germany. They were soon to get a startling 
awakening. 

In the meantime their illusions were fed by the 
way in which Joffre carried out the retreat. 

He refused a general engagement on the line of 
the Somme, but as his armies fell back towards Paris 
and the Marne he did his utmost to make the 
Germans pay dearly for every bit of ground over 
which they advanced, thus making it appear that 
he was really pressed back against his will and 
patriotic sentiments. His ulterior motive was to 
draw the invader into a deadly trap and to involve 



THE GREAT RETREAT 145 

him there in a calamitous disaster, a disaster which, 
if all went well, would be complete and would 
considerably shorten the length of the war. For 
no other reason would General Joffre have momen- 
tarily relinquished such a portion of France to the 
Germans ; the points chosen from which to resume 
the offensive show the boldness of his plan : these 
points formed a semi-circle round the advancing 
foe, from Paris to Verdun. 

But, it might be asked, how could General Joffre 
know that the Germans would walk into his trap ? 
Because there comes a time in strategic develop- 
ments when the answering moves of the enemy 
can easily be surmised, especially when that enemy 
has been playing into one's hand all the time. In 
their blind rush towards the attainment of a speedy 
victory the Germans had exhausted almost every 
alternative, and they were now too far forward to 
resort to any other than the one to which they were 
committed once they had launched such vast hosts 
at such a pace the one, at any rate, that Joffre 
felt sure they were bound to take. For one thing 
they could not guess the gathering strength of 
France's western armies ; and so, even before General 
Joffre declined a general engagement in northern 
France the Germans began their assaults on the 
positions of Nancy fully confident that by so doing 
they would attract there and pin down a consider- 
K 



146 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

able portion of the French forces whilst they drove 
the rest before them. 

But General Joffre was a wily opponent. We 
have seen how he took advantage of his early 
advance in Lorraine to strengthen his northern 
armies. He was now repeating the same manoeuvre 
on a larger scale and taking measures which 
showed how well he understood the psychology of 
the Germans. As early as the 26th of August, when 
the danger of the Germans piercing the gap of 
Mirecourt had passed, Joffre had restrained, if 
not entirely stopped, Castelnau's counter-offensive 
in Lorraine, at the same time ordering him to keep 
strictly to the defensive as far as the positions 
around Nancy were concerned, but to make these 
positions as strong as possible and, if need be, to 
defend them to the last man. Thus he was able 
to draw upon the eastern contingents to reinforce 
once more the western armies, those contingents 
being weakened to their utmost limit, the limit 
that would still enable them to hold on success- 
fully to the positions they were entrusted to 
defend. 

The positions around Nancy were strengthened 
so as to make up for the numerical deficiency of 
the defenders, and the whole affair was so well 
managed that when the Germans come to know of 
the manoeuvre, and principally by what handfuls of 



THE GREAT RETREAT 147 

men their gigantic efforts were baulked at Nancy, 
they will, in all probability, be thunderstruck. 

That they misinterpreted Joflre's retirement from 
north France is obvious the way in which Kluck 
exposed his flank at the Marne shows us this 
very clearly, for he did not know of the strength of 
the 6th army. Neither did the other German com- 
manders know that a new army, the 7th, under 
Foch, was added to the French western line ; this 
army, at the beginning of the retreat, slipping 
unobserved between the 5th and 4th above Chateau 
Thierry. 

Thus Joffre drew the Germans on. After some 
desultory but quite severe fighting east and south 
of Amiens, the 6th French army retreated on Paris ; 
the British army, after several brilliant rearguard 
actions, notably at Villers Cotterets and Compiegne 
(September 1), retired across the Marne immediately 
east of Paris ; the 5th army fought a big action 
south of Chateau Thierry, and fell back, together 
with the 7th army on its right, towards the Seine ; 
the 4th and 3rd armies gave battle to the Germans 
between Rheims and Verdun (September 2-3) ; and 
whilst the 4th army, after this engagement, proceeded 
southwards by way of the broken and wooded country 
of the Argonne, the 3rd, under Sarrail, pivoting 
slowly backwards on Verdun, had the difficult task 
not only of protecting Verdun from attack, but of 



148 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

keeping its connection with the 4th army in the 
direction of Bar-le-Duc. 

Thus the Germans, whose big guns in their rear 
were shelling the fortress of Maubeuge, entered in 
triumph Laon, Rheims, Le Fere, and other im- 
portant places. To the onlookers it seemed as if 
their onrush would never be stopped as if they 
must eventually occupy and conquer the whole of 
France. 

The eyes of the world were fixed on the French 
capital, many and many people believing that the 
Germans would soon enter it. Paris appeared to all 
as the immediate objective of the Germans, and 
the situation for France and the Allies looked black 
indeed. The fate of the French armies was not 
thought of in the mind of the pessimistic it was 
already settled, since few could have as yet an inkling 
of General Joffre's designs. The removal of the 
French Government to Bordeaux added the last 
touch to the gloom of the picture. In vain it was 
officially explained that Paris, in order to play its 
part in the general scheme of operations, must 
cease for a time to be the capital ; in vain the veteran 
General Gallieni, of Madagascar fame, was appointed 
governor and entrusted with its defence in case 
it really came to be attacked ; the depression con- 
tinued and the exodus from the seemingly threatened 
capital for some days, at any rate, was a flood. 
Not that the nation really quaked, its calm 



THE GREAT RETREAT 149 

astonished every one ; not that the people had lost 
faith in the destiny of France and the cause of the 
Allies but the seemingly irresistible advance of 
the Germans towards the goal that every one 
assigned to them was too strong an argument, an 
argument that the unstrategic mind of the masses 
could not digest. It was hoped that " something 
would turn up," that the addition of the British 
army to the field forces of France not being sufficient 
to " turn the tide," the Russians, who were winning 
at Lemberg and East Prussia, would swoop down 
in hundreds of thousands, from Archangel through 
Britain, against the German rear, about Ostend ! 
It is a curious statement to make, but the Great 
Retreat, which actually saved France and Europe, 
lowered the prestige of the French army, although 
this army had demonstrated its superiority over the 
Germans in many an encounter. 

The aim of the Germans, however, was misin- 
terpreted. They were not marching on Paris. The 
rank and file, the officers and even, probably, the 
subaltern leaders, believed it, or were made to 
believe it, as it helped them to keep up their enthu- 
siasm and self-confidence ; but the General Staff 
had other plans. Ever since the first efforts of the 
Crown Princes of Germany and Bavaria had been 
foiled in Lorraine and the Ardennes, the idea of a 
direct march on the capital of France had been 



150 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

abandoned by the German leaders, for it stood to 
reason that the French armies in the field must 
be dealt with first. To attack such a strong 
entrenched camp as Paris before the French field 
forces had been completely defeated would have 
been sheer madness on the part of the Germans. 
The investment of a single sector alone would have 
weakened the German field strength by a couple 
of army corps ; and, as it was, the German corps 
in the field, after the enormous losses suffered in 
Belgium and north France, did not feel too strong 
for the task that lay before them. The German 
commanders, also, were trained soldiers and good 
strategists. They knew that an attack on Paris 
would add moral impetus to the French armies, a 
moral impetus which might be dangerous to the 
Germans. The German generals certainly remem- 
bered how in 1870, after Sedan, the ill-trained 
reserves of France had fought for the defence of 
their capital. Finally, the German estimate of the 
French leaders was now considerably higher than 
at the opening of hostilities. They at least had 
come to learn and to feel that Joffre, since the 
beginning, had been playing a very close game, 
and that, if they made a slip, he would not fail to 
turn it to account. 

Nevertheless the illusion of victorious German 
armies advancing on Paris remained, and was 






THE GREAT RETREAT 151 

fated to remain. The strategic chessboard was as 
plain as could be, but the dramatic situation of 
an anxious capital stoically awaiting the onrush of 
the foe made too strong an appeal to the imagina- 
tion. A single glance at the map would have 
shown that only one extremity of the huge German 
line could come in direct and immediate contact 
with Paris ; it required but rudimentary knowledge 
to understand the vast strength of the French 
capital, a strength that lay not so much in the 
forts and their stupendous armament, but in 
the numerous masked batteries which surrounded 
the line of forts from a great distance. A full 
army and a formidable garrison were ready for any 
emergency. The Germans refrained, and kept to 
their main objective that of annihilating the 
French armies in the field. But to the masses and 
the amateur strategist Paris was the military objective 
of the Germans. The French armies, evidently, did 
not count, and so it has come about that, after 
long months of war, and of official accounts and 
explanations, the strategy of the most decisive 
operations of the campaign has not been properly 
understood. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE BATTLE OF NANCY 

WE have already seen that it is not easy to under- 
stand the early military moves in Belgium and 
northern France without a full knowledge of pre- 
ceding or contemporaneous events in Alsace and 
Lorraine. In the same way further developments in 
the western part of the field cannot be well grasped, 
nor properly focussed in the mind, if one leaves 
out of account those operations which truly formed 
the base of General Joffre's strategy. In the neglect 
or ignorance of this fact lies the cause of so much 
confusion in the public mind as to the real position 
of affairs and the importance of the results achieved. 
It was natural, indeed, that it should be so, that 
people should fail to realise the relative value of 
certain incidents and the exact meaning of the 
whole scheme, for the secrecy enforced by the mili- 
tary authorities (especially the French, who carried 
out the scheme) made it difficult, not to say im- 
possible, to f o low the trend of events in their right 
perspective. The eyes of the world, as we have said, 

were fixed on Paris, and on the western extremity 

in 



_ R R A 1 N I 




MAP 14. 



To /ace page 152. 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 153 

of the battlefield in France, not only because the 
British were there ; not only because the situa- 
tion of the apparently threatened capital seemed 
desperate ; but because representatives of the world- 
wide Press who were allowed to follow the operations 
from a safe distance found it easier, and no doubt 
more interesting, to confine their attention to that 
sector of the line. Mention must be made also of 
the different methods of conveying news of an official 
character adopted by the various belligerents, the 
British Staff, for instance, having to be, for many 
reasons, most prolific in its accounts, whilst the 
French, for more vital reasons still, had to remain 
most concise. This disparity of methods more than 
anything else contributed to a general distortion of 
view that has never been attained before during 
the progress of a war, for it inevitably gave prom- 
inence to actions and incidents of minor consequence, 
whilst it left in the dark developments and achieve- 
ments of the utmost import. 

Thus it is that wrong theories of the strategy of 
the campaign are still held ; that it is believed, for in- 
stance, that in the first phase of the war the Germans 
made their greatest effort in the vicinity of Paris, 
an assertion which amounts to giving them more 
strategic ability than they possessed and auto- 
matically diminishing the merits of the French. 

Another influence detrimental to the proper 



154 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

study of this campaign is the utter disregard of 
chronology displayed by most commentators, who 
will follow the bend of the public towards the 
kaleidoscopic, and present the strategic problem, 
such as they understand it, in a topsy-turvy way. 
They begin with Liege ; follow with Mons imme- 
diately ; rush down to the Marne at a rate of speed 
that takes one's breath away and that would have 
certainly landed General Joffre at the foot of the 
declivity, panting, breathless, and with a bad pain 
in the side. Then Paris is " saved " the Germans 
are pursued to the Aisne . . . and, quite as an after- 
thought, the other previous or contemporaneous 
operations are thrown in, or rather are reviewed in 
the most detached, desultory sort of fashion. Result 
in the minds of readers or listeners : chaos, and a 
strong impression that the Allies of Britain are 
inefficient and weak. 

This favourite way of talking or writing about the 
war has almost condemned to oblivion what can well 
be considered, without exaggeration, as the finest 
achievement of the campaign. 

This is the defence of Nancy, an action which if 
the field of operations had been reversed, if it had 
been fought out in Belgium or near Paris, would 
have immediately received from the world the amount 
of attention that it deserved. For, on the defence 
of Nancy, or rather of the positions surrounding it 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 155 

and the approaches to the fortress of Toul, depended 
entirely the course of events in the west, and there- 
fore the success of the retreat to, and of the battles 
on, the Marne. Furthermore, it was the longest and 
most bitterly contested action of the first phase of 
the campaign ; and the material results achieved, 
apart from the strategic, were of paramount im- 
portance to the successful prosecution of the war 
by the Allies ; for, at little cost to the French, it 
swept off the surface of the earth a number of first- 
rate German units. In other words, the Germans, at 
Nancy more than anywhere else (until the battles of 
Flanders in the second phase of the war) squandered 
their strength in the most ineffective and useless 
fashion, not to mention the moral effect of the 
failure, which was immense, for it was the first 
time that German soldiers were defeated in the 
presence and under the very eyes of their Emperor. 
Apart from all this the battle of Nancy would 
still take precedence over those on the Marne if 
for the only reason that it started a whole week 
previously, and reached its climax before the other 
efforts of the Germans elsewhere reached theirs. 
To realise this one must keep in account that the 
German attack on the " Grand Couronne " began 
at the moment that Joffre abandoned the line of 
the Somme in order to carry out the Great Retreat, 
and that when he resumed the offensive east and 



156 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

south of Paris, the German efforts at Nancy were 
practically spent. The fact that the Germans per- 
sisted until the end is no proof that they would have 
carried the positions if Joffre had been compelled 
to continue his retreat further south. It simply 
demonstrates what we have pointed out before, 
that, beyond the taking of Nancy and the invest- 
ment of Toul, the Germans had what constituted a 
more important object at this stage of develop- 
ments : the weakening of Joffre's left and centre 
armies, and the " pinning down " in Lorraine of a 
considerable portion of the French forces ; this end 
(the last strategic hope of the Germans during 
their first offensive) was not attained. They must 
have understood this directly their right wing had 
to retreat and their centre armies were overthrown. 
The game was up. Joffre had baulked the Germans. 

Thus can the battle of Nancy alone be appraised 
at its true worth, and its decisive character impressed 
on the minds of men. 

The German attack on the " Grand Couronne " 
was a direct answer to Joffre's refusal to accept 
battle on the line of the Somme. 

Up to August 30 the Germans, having failed 
to gain control of the gap of Mirecourt, meant to 
attack or isolate Verdun and pierce the French line 
north of Toul, at St. Mihiel. What shows it plainly 
is that on that date (August 30), the 5th German 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 157 

army corps, under General von Stranz, 1 based on 
Metz, was advancing in a straight line westwards to 
St. Mihiel, and that suddenly, as it became known 
that the Allies were falling back from the Somme, 
this army corps wheeled sharply round to the south, 
towards Pont a Mousson, and the position of St. 
Genevieve, which is the northern extremity of the 
" Grand Couronne." Concurrently the garrisons of 
Metz and Strasburg were being drawn upon in 
material and men to reinforce the army of Bavaria, 
whose losses along the banks of the Moselle and the 
Meurthe had been fearful. What happened further 
south, from Gerberviller to St. Die, after Castelnau's 
successful counter-attacks from the 26th to the 30th 
of August, was only a parallel action along the line 
of the Meurthe, in which the Germans, now on the 
defensive in that region, endeavoured to protect their 
flank and the communications of the Bavarian army, 
whilst this army transferred its activities to the 
north, aiming first at Verdun, then, in obedience to 
the change of plan, at Nancy. The terrific artillery 
actions that took place east of Nancy on the 27th 
and 28th were the outcome of the German flank 
march past positions, where they thought the French 
might attack in great strength, as they had done 
two days earlier to check the German effort against 

1 This army corps belonged to the army of the Crown 
Prince. See Appendix, p. 207. 



158 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the gap of Mirecourt. This is rendered more illum- 
inative by the fact that it was not there, but on the 
northern sector of the " Grand Couronne " that the 
Bavarians began their infantry assaults, when they 
would have saved time and the fatigues of a march 
by beginning with the southern sector. 

Thus the importance of Joffre's retreat is more 
and more emphasised, for by so doing he not only 
saved his left wing, which was in jeopardy on the 
Somme, but he also saved Verdun. Verdun had no 
" Grand Couronne " to protect it, and even without 
taking it the Germans could isolate the fortress and 
surround from the south the army of Sarrail, which 
at the time (August 30-31) was still disputing to 
the Crown Prince the passage of the Meuse north of 
Verdun. 

Instead the Germans turned their attention to 
Nancy and concentrated their efforts against the 
" Grand Couronne," a course of action which allowed 
Sarrail to keep a tight hold on Verdun and play his 
part in the Great Retreat. 

The attacks on the " Grand Couronne " were pre- 
ceded by the most terrific bombardment, no less than 
400 heavy guns, brought from the arsenal of Metz, 
being massed against it. The French, who had 
already had a taste of the German heavy gun fire at 
Saarburg, were fully prepared for it, and not being 
able to reply to this weight of metal, they had taken 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 159 

all the precautions necessary to reduce to a minimum 
the effects of the German siege ordnance. The 
troops had dug themselves in and improvised all 
sorts of ingenious shelters against shell fire, and the 
field guns (Rimailho's and " 75's "), to be used only 
at short range against infantry attacks (since these 
weapons were outranged by the howitzers and siege 
guns of the enemy), were cleverly concealed in the 
folds of the ground. Thus the effective defence of 
the positions was made possible by an extreme 
minimum of men. The position of St. Genevieve, 
for instance (which to many was the key of the 
" Grand Couronne ") was only held by a regiment 
of reserve (Territorials). But the ground in front 
of it, especially in the valley of the Moselle, was 
elaborately prepared ; it was covered with wire 
entanglements and other obstacles of a more or less 
deadly kind. To the west of the Moselle there was 
a division based on Toul ; the plateau of Amance, 
north-east of Nancy, was occupied by the 20th 
army corps. Further south a thin line of troops 
perhaps two divisions extended as far as the 
Rhine-Marne Canal, where they were in connection 
with Dubail's army based on Epinal, Dubail having 
in front of him, from that point to the Vosges, 
the main body of von Heeringen's army. 

The positions around Nancy, from Pont a Mousson 
to Dombasle, near Luneville, were attacked by no 



160 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

less than eight army corps, or, their equivalent in 
number of men (about 350,000). 

The infantry assaults began, as we have said, in 
the north, on August 31, and gradually extended 
south, the Germans employing everywhere the same 
tactics; issuing in dense masses from the thick 
woods, they rushed on the positions with the greatest 
bravery and determination. Invariably they were 
shot down at short range by the thousand, and were 
finished off with the bayonet. Thus they were able 
to realise the small impression that their big guns 
had made on the French. Again and again Bav- 
arians, Prussians and Saxons returned to the attack. 
The result was the same ; they never conquered an 
inch of ground, and their slain kept accumulating in 
heaps on the slopes and at the foot of the " Grand 
Couronne." At one single spot near St. Genevieve, 
in the valley, the French found 4,000 German dead. 
The Germans christened the locality " The Hole of 
Death." The only momentary progress was made 
by von Stranz, who took Pont a Mousson, and carried 
the tall hill of the same name, whence he raked with 
artillery fire the flank of the St. Genevieve position. 
But a counter-attack by the French division based 
on Toul made the Germans lose these gun positions. 

The resources of France being limited, or not yet 
completely concentrated and brought together, the 
French generalissimo apparently found himself in a 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 161 

dilemma. Either he must relinquish Nancy and the 
supporting line of eastern fortresses, or else he must 
uncover Paris. The second alternative he thought 
the safer, principally as the Germans might feel 
inclined to attack Paris and thus expose themselves 
to the full effect of a sudden resumption of the 
offensive by the French. But, supposing the Ger- 
mans did not take the bait offered ! If, instead of 
making a rush on the capital they elected to pursue 
relentlessly the course of their enveloping policy, 
what then ? The result could not be in doubt for 
one instant : the French, weak and demoralised as 
they seemed to be, would be surrounded and crushed 
behind those very strongholds to which, on one side, 
they were clinging so desperately. 

This conviction held by the Germans is the true, 
and only, explanation of Kluck's sudden move on 
the Marne, and the reckless way in which he exposed 
his own flank to the attack of the French from 
Paris. 

Kluck was not aware of the formation of the 
6th French army. The French forces he had met up 
to then on the left of the British were not con- 
siderable. They appeared to consist only of a couple 
of weak Territorial divisions, with a cavalry corps 
attached. These troops had been sorely tried 
and were, no doubt, exhausted. They were re- 
tiring, behind the retreating English, into Paris, in 
L 



162 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

order to recuperate there and also to increase the 
strength of the garrison in view of an expected Ger- 
man attack. Thus Kluck, as he left Paris on one 
side, and made his swing in to the east of Paris, 
did so without experiencing any anxiety for his 
flank, nor for the safety of his line of communica- 
tions. The precautions that he took had not the 
French in view, but were to guarantee himself 
against a possible attack of the English who, having 
crossed the Marne at Lagny, were spread across 
the wooded region to the south of the Grand Morin, 
and, therefore, would constitute a danger to Kluck 
as he made his flank march past them. 

Kluck left two army corps on the banks of the 
Ourcq ; this was to outflank the British when the 
time came. He also threw his cavalry westward 
beyond Crecy and Coulommiers, to keep the British 
well under observation, whilst his forward corps and 
those of Bulow on his left converged towards 
Montmirail and La Ferte Gaucher against the left 
of the French armies. The statement, therefore, 
made in one of the communique's that Kluck 
" ignored " the British is quite wrong. The British 
had given very recently proofs of efficiency at 
Compiegne, and at Villers Cotterets ; they were first 
line troops, all of them, and the German commanders 
knew from history that the British are not de- 
moralised by retreat ; whilst the French, on the 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 163 

contrary, were generally supposed to lose all grit, 
all courage, when placed on the defensive. Kluck 
did nevertheless ignore something but it was not 
the British. It was the 6th French army under 
General Maunoury. 

So the main point to remember in order to have a 
clear view of the operations on the Marne is that, 
until the sudden appearance of the 6th French 
army on Kluck's rear, and the failure of the Ger- 
man efforts to break the French centre later on, the 
German commanders were in the dark as to the real 
number and strength of the French western armies ; 
and that this ignorance was mainly based on the 
turn of events in Lorraine, of the little headway 
made there by the Germans, and in spite of their 
strenuous exertions and terrible losses a state of 
affairs which certainly made it appear as if Joffre 
had massed his main strength around the French 
eastern fortresses. 

The Germans were soon to have their awakening. 

On September 5, in the words of the French 
official account, the conditions were attained that 
the generalissimo had been seeking from the 
moment he had declined a general engagement on 
the line of the Somme. 

On that day Jonre issued his now famous pro- 
clamation, making an appeal to the courage and 
patriotism of his troops. The time had arrived for 



164 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

a resumption of the offensive. No man in France 
must look backwards any further, but forward, and 
in the words of the proclamation, " be killed on the 
spot rather than give way." 

The effect of the proclamation on men who had 
seen their country's soil once more trampled upon 
by the foe was electrifying ; but such an appeal 
must not be taken as signifying that the French 
armies were really standing with their backs to the 
wall, nor that their leader thought that only their 
heroism and combative powers could save the situa- 
tion and the country. The Great Retreat, as we have 
shown, was deliberate, and not the result of defeat 
or weakness. Joffre was master of the situation, 
and he knew it ; but he also knew that the Germans 
were strong, that they were in earnest, and that 
they would make desperate, supreme efforts to 
achieve the decisive victory which they were so 
impatient of winning since their attack on Liege. 

Joffre felt confident that he could break those 
efforts, but he wished to achieve something more 
to involve the German armies in a tremendous and 
complete disaster, and, in order to do so, he aimed 
at nothing less than the envelopment and destruc- 
tion of Kluck's army, the army which since Cambrai 
had vainly endeavoured to envelop him. It was not 
a presumptuous design on the contrary, Kluck was 
walking serenely into the trap prepared for him, 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 165 

and unless the French arrangements went wrong 
again, as they had done on the Sambre, Kluck 
must be caught, and Bulow also. The fate of 
Germany would then be sealed, and the war be 
ended there and then, leaving the Allies triumphant. 
The forlorn attacks of the Germans on the " Grand 
Couronne " culminated on September 6 in a grand 
and general assault on the plateau of Amance. 
This assault, or series of assaults, was delivered by 
masses of 50,000 men at a time, under the eyes of 
the German Emperor, who had hurried from his 
headquarters at Metz with the intention, it is said, 
of entering the capital of Lorraine on that day or the 
next, at the head of his white cuirassiers who formed 
his escort. From a hill in the rear of his troops he 
anxiously watched the action. He knew from his 
staff, as well as from the early developments of the 
campaign, that things had not been going too well ; 
that the enemy was wily, resourceful and intelli- 
gent, and that up to now the German arms had 
scored no decisive success. The attack on Nancy, 
if it succeeded, would put everything right. It 
would, at any rate, help the sweeping moves near 
Paris. So the Kaiser hoped, and he came to put 
some heart into his soldiery, to give more impetus 
to their attacks. From afar his lonely figure could 
be seen on the top of a sunny hill on that fatal 
day, peering through his glasses. He was pointed 



166 GERMANY EN DEFEAT 

out as a great favour to some French soldiers who 
had been captured near St. Gene vie ve. The French 
soldiers were not in the least awed. One of them, a 
reservist, having escaped, wrote home to say that he 
had at last seen " the scoundrel who had plunged 
Europe in this calamitous war ! " 

At the sight of their Kaiser the German troops 
were truly inspirited. They dashed from the woods 
in serried ranks, with flags unfurled and bands 
playing. Three times on that day they ascended 
the deadly slopes of the " Grand Couronne," already 
strewn with slain ; and three times, under the ter- 
rific fire of the " 75's" and the bayonet charges of 
the 20th French corps, they reeled back in confusion. 
In the evening the Kaiser returned to Metz, where 
he received ominous tidings of the developments of 
affairs near Paris. He had lost all hope. Not so 
his commanders, who, on the 7th and the 8th, 
renewed their attacks in less theatrical fashion. 
But the troops were exhausted, disheartened, and 
terribly diminished in numbers. To have an idea 
of their losses it is only necessary to know that in 
front of the positions of the " Grand Couronne " 
alone the French picked up afterwards more than 
40,000 identification discs of German dead. The 
other casualties have not been estimated, and 
probably never will be. Whole brigades, entire 
regiments had vanished ; divisions and army corps 



THE BATTLE OF NANCY 167 

were sorely depleted, whilst the losses of the 
French in comparison were insignificant. On the 
9th, when the battles of the Marne were nearing 
their climax, the German efforts against the " Grand 
Couronne " had already slackened. It was on the 
evening of that day that, more out of spite than 
any effective design, the Germans pushed up, under 
cover of darkness, an advanced battery, which 
dropped some seventy shells in the suburbs of 
Nancy. On the next day the battery was destroyed 
by the French guns. On the 1 1th a German division 
issuing from Einville made a dash against Dombasle, 
with the apparent design of cutting into the 
French line there. But this division was trapped 
by the French artillery in and around the woods of 
Crevic and practically annihilated. The French 
counted there more than 3,000 German bodies. 

Einville marks the end of all German offensive 
action in Lorraine. It was the last kick of a baffled 
foe, of an army in distress. By this time the issue 
on the Marne had been decided. 

The Germans evacuated Luneville, which they 
had held since August 23, and they retreated 
sullenly back to their own frontier. Nancy was 
impregnable. It had cost the Germans well over 
200,000 men (the equivalent of five army corps) to 
learn the fact. They had effected nothing. Joffie, 
full of confidence in the valour of his troops and 



168 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the strength of the " Grand Couronne," had not 
worried unduly about the strenuous German efforts 
in Lorraine, and thus had been able to leave the 
French western armies strong enough to achieve 
their purpose on the Marne, their ranks unthinned 
by the need for reinforcements for the sparsely 
occupied trenches of the heroic defenders of Nancy. 



Jfxlreme lun&efGrtal Retreat 
General position, of western asmieSisi France 
/fiat 




MAP 15. 



To face page 169 



CHAPTER XV 

BATTLE OF THE OURCQ 

WE have now reached those events which, although 
they were not clearly understood at the time and 
are still misinterpreted, showed to the world that 
Germany was not winning the war ; indeed, that 
she was actually losing it. Military minds alone 
(and, at that, only a few) could have guessed pre- 
viously from the meagre information to hand that 
the German armies in France were rushing to dis- 
aster. The vast majority of onlookers measured the 
extent of the German victories, those past and those 
to come, by the amount of Belgian and French terri- 
tory occupied, the number of Belgian and French 
cities and strongholds in the hands of the invader. 
Had the Germans attacked Paris at once, as they 
were expected to do, people would have thought 
that it was the end ; and, indeed, it would have 
been the end, because a German attack on Paris 
would have meant that the armies of France were no 
longer of any account, that they were beaten. 

But something strange happened, or rather some- 
thing that seemed strange to those who were too 

169 



170 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

much taking for granted that France was defeated 
and helpless : the German columns that were 
apparently marching on Paris suddenly altered 
their course. From Compiegne, instead of advanc- 
ing straight on Paris, they wheeled to their left, 
south-eastwards, in the direction of the Marne, 
which they crossed at Meaux. The Allies were 
puzzled, but relieved to think that Paris was 
safe, and yet seeing that the public was not better 
acquainted with the true position of affairs and with 
the intentions of General Joffre, it should have 
been more alarmed still, for the objective of the 
Germans was not changed. It was a deadly one, 
and mattered far more than the mere capture and 
occupation of the French capital by the Germans, 
for that sinister objective was no less than the en- 
velopment and total annihilation of the French field 
forces, a hard task, but one that the German leaders 
felt they could now accomplish, their confidence 
being increased by the stout resistance of the French 
in Lorraine, at Nancy especially, as this resistance 
made it appear as if the French were in great strength 
there and, consequently, much weaker elsewhere. 
So, at least, and most naturally, the Germans in- 
terpreted Joffre's retreat. 

The end sought by Joffre would have been attained 
if only the French troops, detailed for the turning 
movement and the attack of Kluck's rear, could 



BATTLE OF THE OURCQ 171 

have momentarily restrained their ardour. These 
troops, it must be said, were in a peculiar position. 
Since the 26th of August, when they had first moved 
forward from Compiegne, they had been eagerly 
anxious to meet the enemy. They had been sent 
back, in consequence of the retreat from Belgium, 
and had been led by a circuitous route towards 
Amiens. But there, again, they had been disap- 
pointed, and had been made to retire still further 
without having had a serious encounter with the 
Germans. At last, on reaching Paris, they were 
told the enemy was near, and was preparing to 
attack. The stirring appeal of Joffre transported 
to the wildest enthusiasm every man from the 
generals downwards. Thus it came about that the 
French 6th army acted prematurely. 

When the reserve corps under General Lamaze, 
which formed the right wing of Maunoury's 6th 
army, came into collision with the Germans near 
Meaux, Kluck's forward corps was still on the move 
above Coulommiers, and could, therefore, be 
quickly brought back and withdrawn across the 
Marne before the forces opposed to it along the 
Grand Morin had time to act. 

That is precisely what Kluck did as soon as his 
eyes were opened and he realised the danger of his 
position. He lost no time, he waited not a moment 
and determined to defeat this new force which had 



172 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

so unexpectedly appeared behind him. Leaving 
strong detachments and his cavalry to delay the 
Allies south of the Marne, he wheeled round his 
2nd corps, which recrossed the Marne at Meaux, 
and in order to crush Maunoury swiftly, he pre- 
vailed upon Bulow to send him one of his corps. 
This was the 9th, which lay the nearest to Kluck's 
forces. It was camped west of Montmirail ; and 
was hurried north by way of Chateau Thierry the 
way it had come to outflank the French in the 
direction of Betz and Crepy-en-Valois ; whilst the 
2nd corps, slipping behind the forces that were at 
grips with the French west of Meaux, went to the 
support of the 4th German corps south of Betz. 
Besides acting too soon Maunoury's army went 
into the fight piecemeal ; and so quick were Kluck's 
moves that, on the evening of the 7th, the 6th 
French army was cut off from Baron and Nanteuil. 
The French troops, however, aware of what a defeat 
at the very gates of Paris would mean, fought with 
wonderful devotion and courage ; and their com- 
mander, a hard hitter if a little quicksilvery in 
temperament, did all he could to retrieve the day ; 
otherwise the 6th army might have succumbed 
before it had time to receive reinforcements or 
establish contact with the British forces which were 
advancing south of the Marne. The 7th French 
corps especially distinguished itself, although at one 



/Jenlzj 




title gf the Ourco 
f *yfr 
T Tunis 



MAP 16. 



To /ace page 172. 



BATTLE OF THE OURCQ 173 

moment it was hard pressed and driven back from 
Betz. But reinforced, together with the 4th corps, 
by troops of the Paris garrison, it resumed the offen- 
sive, kept at bay the Germans, and captured many 
trophies. The 4th corps also stood its ground well 
near Nanteuil. The reserves only, near Meaux, 
being rather outnumbered, gave way, until the Tunis 
division arrived from Paris, on the evening of the 
8th, in a regular fleet of motor vehicles that had 
been hastily requisitioned in the capital. The 
Tunis division, under General Drude, consisted 
entirely of first line troops. It was therefore worth 
an army corps, as the troops were quite fresh and 
rushed into the fight direct from the conveyances 
that had brought them. Although unsupported by 
artillery, the Tunisian troops drove back the Ger- 
mans into Meaux, where the French came again 
into touch with the British who were acting from 
the Grand Morin. 

General Joffre, in pursuance of his plan, had asked 
Sir John French, on September 5, to effect a change 
of front by pivoting on Lagny, where the British left 
rested. This had been done, and directly the signal 
for a general offensive had been given the British 
army had sprung forward in the direction of 
Meaux and La Tretoire. But before these points 
were attained, on September 8, it had been necessary 
to deal with the cavalry divisions and strong rear- 



174 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

guards which Kluck had left behind him. Then, 
south of Meaux, the British left found unexpected 
resistance, and for some little time was held back, 
until the arrival from Paris of the Tunis division. 
The English and the Tunisian troops entered Meaux 
together and, after stubborn fighting, wrested it 
from the Germans. At La Tretoire, on the English 
right, there was a severe action, in which the Ger- 
mans, outnumbered, held their ground heroically, 
and were finally all slain, or captured, together with 
booty and guns. 

On the 9th the British army was across the Marne, 
east of Meaux. On the whole it had had compara- 
tively little fighting, but this was the fault of the 
6th French army, which by attacking prematurely 
on the Ourcq had drawn against itself a great number 
of the enemy who otherwise might have been en- 
gaged with the English south of the Marne, and 
been pinned down there, which would have assured 
the complete success of General Joffre's plan. The 
5th French army, on the right of the British, 
had a more heavy task, as it had to contend with 
three full army corps, which faced it from La 
Fert6 Gaucher to Sezanne. 1 It was necessary that 
its action should be quick quicker than the 

x The French official survey of the War says that there were 
four, but this would include Bulow's 9th corps, which, as we 
have seen, was withdrawn to help Kluck on the Ourcq. 



BATTLE OF THE OURCQ 175 

British, because the intention of Joffre was to cut 
off the German right wing from the centre, roll it up 
from north and south and encircle it between the 
Ourcq and the Marne, an object which might have 
been achieved if, as we have stated already, the 6th 
French army had not too eagerly hurried its attack 
on Kluck's rear on the Ourcq. 

The action of the 5th French army under Franchet 
d'Esperey was brilliant. On the night of the 
5th to the 6th the Germans were surprised in their 
bivouacs near Montmirail. Three villages were 
carried with the bayonet. On the next day a 
severe action developed in that region, between the 
Petit Morin and the Marne. The dash of the French 
troops was irresistible. Two corps of Bulow were 
overthrown and pursued to the Marne in the direc- 
tion of Chateau Thierry. The confusion amongst 
the enemy was so great that there is no doubt 
that the German commanders in that part of the 
field lost their heads entirely. After their swift 
and practically unchecked advance from the 
frontier of Belgium they had felt convinced that 
their opponents were demoralised, or, at any rate, 
incapable of resuming the offensive in such an 
energetic fashion. The troops of Franchet d'Esperey 
did not give time to the enemy to recover. Fighting 
day and night, and keeping well in contact on their 
left with the British, who were progressing in the 



176 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

same direction, they reached the line of the Maine 
on the 9th and crossed the river on the following 
day in the teeth of a desperate opposition. The 
booty captured by the 5th French army was 
immense. It included guns, howitzers, maxims 
and 1,300,000 cartridges. The number of prisoners, 
however, was comparatively small, which shows 
that the German leaders, once they grasped the 
situation and the design of their adversaries, deter- 
mined to get as quickly as possible out of the trap 
which was closing round them. In order to effect 
this they wisely abandoned all cumbrous material, 
and only opposed the resistance necessary to delay 
the enemy and avoid an envelopment. Those 
detachments which were meant to be sacrificed 
were sacrificed. The rest of the troops were well 
kept together and withdrawn, not without disorder 
and great losses, but with a rapidity and a cohesion 
of movements which, under the circumstances, were 
nothing short of marvellous. 

On the morning of the 10th of September the 
British and French were astride the Marne, between 
Meaux and Chateau Thierry ; and, on the same day, 
Kluck, giving up all further attempts against 
Maunoury on the Ourcq, retreated to the Aisne. 
This retreat seemed the natural outcome of Bulow's 
overthrow at Montmirail and of his rapid retire- 
ment to the north bank of the Marne. The asser- 




elun 



J^a-ntt -4 th days 
sSe.j>tembcr 8 - 



MAP 17. 



To /ace />a#e 176. 



BATTLE OF THE OURCQ 177 

tion is made in nearly all accounts, including one of 
French official surveys of the war, which makes it 
appear that Maunoury's move on the Ourcq after 
all attained its object in full. But another account, 
published in the Bulletin des Armies on December 5, 
makes it clear that the final retirement of the 
Germans' right wing armies to the line of the Aisne 
was due to another cause that we shall deal with 
in a subsequent chapter. Let us add here that 
strict chronology is not quite in accordance with the 
accepted view, and that, considering the Germans 
were able subsequently to maintain themselves 
in France for such a long time, and even to resume 
prolonged offensive operations on a large scale, 
there can be no doubt that, strategically, the French 
turning movement on the Ourcq miscarried, and 
that the issue of the so-called battles of the Marne 
was decided elsewhere. 



M 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT OF THE GREAT RE- 
TREAT, WHEREIN FOCH COMPLETELY OVER- 
THROWS THE WHOLE GERMAN ARMIES AND 
SAVES FRANCE AT THE BATTLE OF FERE CHAM- 
PENOISE. 

IN the survey of a campaign the truly decisive 
moves are often overlooked. This comes as much 
from ignorance of strategy as from the inclination 
of most people to dwell on those events or details 
of the fighting which appeal to the imagination 
and stir patriotic sentiment or stimulate pride. 
The various accounts given of the battle of the 
Marne furnish an instance in point, all the atten- 
tion of this dramatic happening having been 
centred on the incidents in which the safety of the 
capital of France seemed directly concerned the 
creation of a picture of the famous city being 
saved, as in the times of Attila, from the incursion 
of barbarous hordes constituting the main attrac- 
tion of the war. Other parts of France could be 
ravaged, polluted by the foe ; but this, to the out- 
side world, did not so much matter whilst Paris, 
the happy hunting ground of the cosmopolitan 

178 



BATTLE OF F^RE CHAMPENOISE 179 



pleasure seeker, must not, of course, be touched 
by the rude hands of the barbarian. And so all 
eyes were fixed on the region where the western 
extremity of the invaders' line came in contact 
with the forces detailed for the protection and defence 
of the capital. The 6th army, under Maunoury, 
issued from the fortified camp in Kluck's rear ; 
then the British and French 5th armies advanced 
from the south, and the Germans retreated hurriedly 
to the river Aisne, where, curiously enough, in 
spite of their recent " rout " and " complete " 
overthrow, they managed to put up a stout 
resistance for a matter of seven or eight months ! 
Paris was indeed " saved," but by whom ? By 
Maunoury ? By the English ? By the 5th French 
army ? No one seems to be able to answer those 
questions in a definite manner. Maunoury did 
stop Kluck's advance against the French armies 
south of the Marne, and forced him to withdraw to 
the north bank, but then Maunoury was nearly 
surrounded and overwhelmed by Kluck, and the 
arrival of reinforcements and the progress of the 
British and the 5th French army, south of the Marne, 
barely redressed the balance. Finally, on the date 
of their final retirement, on September 10, Kluck 
and Bulow were still strong and quite able to resume 
the offensive from advantageous positions. Maun- 
oury was still dangerously outflanked by way of 



180 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Baron and Nanteuil, which Kluck held on 
September 9. On that night, September 9 to 10, 
Maunoury prepared for the morrow an attack, 
the issue of which, in his mind, was uncertain. 
This attack, however, did not take place, because in 
the early morning of September 10 Kluck abandoned 
his positions. Bulow, at the same moment, did 
likewise, and Joffre's left whig had then nothing 
more to do but to start in pursuit and push on as 
far as it could go. No serious resistance was met 
by the Allies until they reached the line of the 
Aisne. 

The date on which this sudden flight of Kluck 
and Bulow took place is important to remember ; 
the time of the day at which it began still more so. 
It was in the early morning of September 10, at 
about 6 o'clock, that the German right wing aban- 
doned its positions on the banks of the Ourcq and 
on the north bank of the Marne and yet, on the 
previous evening, the English and French had forded 
the Marne ; and Meaux had been in their hands 
since the evening of the 8th ! The position being 
such as it was, surely the Germans, if they had been 
really hard pressed, could have carried out their 
retirement sooner, during the night itself, and not 
waited for broad daylight to do so ! That is the 
usual course followed in war. In order to avoid 
unnecessary losses and the dangerous confusion 



BATTLE OF F^RE CHAMPENOISE 181 

often attending a retirement carried out in front of 
an active and enterprising enemy, commanders 
who find themselves under the necessity of beating 
a retreat avail themselves, whenever they can, of 
the protecting veil of darkness to evacuate their 
positions. This is what Kluck and Bulow, who were 
good generals, should have done, and what, strangely 
enough, they did not do ! On the evening of the 
9th the front columns of Franchet d'Esperey were 
across the Marne, at Chateau Thierry, and the 
British forces were also on the north bank of the 
river ; yet the Germans did not break off the combat 
until the following morning, when, for safety, and 
also to baffle their enemy, they could easily have done 
so immediately with less disorder and fewer losses. 
What then, at the eleventh hour, caused Kluck 
and Bulow, who were holding their own fairly well, 
to retire to fly in point of fact so precipitately ? 
The answer to this question will be found, as we 
have hinted before, in the French official survey 
of the campaign, published in the Bulletin des 
Armies, on December 5, 1914, and entitled " Four 
Months of War." This survey, in reference to the 
battle of the Marne, contained an illuminating 
paragraph. The paragraph, which deals with the 
action of the 7th French army under General 
Foch at the battle of the Marne, concludes with 
the following significant words : "... if they (the 



182 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

Germans) had pierced us (viz., our lines) between 
Sezanne and Mailly (where the 7th army stood) 
the situation (created by the action of the 6th army 
on the Ourcq) would have been reversed to their (the 
Germans') advantage" Nothing could be more 
definite nor clearer. It amounts to saying that the 
action of the 6th army on the Ourcq, against Kluck, 
was not decisive ; and that, if the Germans had 
succeeded in driving back or piercing through the 
7th French army under General Foch in the centre, 
the 6th army would eventually have been defeated, 
and the British and the 5th French army would have 
been involved in the disaster ; and then it would 
have been, had this contingency resulted, that Paris 
would have been attacked ; and Joffre's left wing, 
cut off from the centre, would have been driven 
back and invested in the capital. Germany would 
thus have won the war. 

This, as is proved by the statement in the Bulletin 
des Armees, is no supposition, no theory. We have 
shown that the action of the 6th army was somewhat 
premature ; that Maunoury, by hurrying develop- 
ments, instead of waiting until Kluck was thor- 
oughly engaged in his front and pinned down south 
of the Marne, did not succeed in outnumbering the 
Germans on the Ourcq as would otherwise have been 
the case ; Maunoury was outnumbered himself 
and came near to being crushed. It was Foch's 



BATTLE OF F^RE CHAMPENOISE 183 

victory in the centre, at Fere Champenoise, which 
saved the situation ; which saved Paris, and which, 
also, saved Joffre's left wing from ultimate disaster. 
Yet Foch's victory, like that of Castelnau at Nancy, 
seems condemned, by the ignorance and indifference 
of the crowd, to eventual oblivion. The indications 
that this action was the most important and de- 
cisive of all those fought in western France are not 
lacking. The communiques and subsequent accounts 
pointed out that it was at Fere Champenoise, 
between Sezanne and Mailly, that the most violent 
fighting had taken place ; that the Germans there 
fought desperately and did their utmost to break 
the French line ; that it was there that the Prussian 
Guards, the elite of the German infantry, sustained 
their second and almost final overthrow ; and that 
the Kaiser, on hearing of the disaster and of the way 
in which Hausen, who commanded the Germans 
there, had been outwitted by his French opponent 
exclaimed that, after such a defeat, General Hausen 
should have blown his brains out ! (This report, 
like others of the kind, may not be true ; it certainly 
fitted the event.) But all this was in vain ; the 
attention of the masses was centred elsewhere 
Paris being, after all, a more attractive spot then 
Fere Champenoise. 

Von Hausen's defeat at Fere Champenoise was 
the outcome partly of the German ignorance as to 



184 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the real strength of the French western armies, but 
mainly the result of General Foch's strategic ability. 
The date at which von Hausen began his frantic 
attacks against Foch should be borne in mind. 
These attacks began on the 7th, therefore Hausen 
delivered them in the full knowledge of Maunoury's 
turning movement against Kluck, which had taken 
place on the Ourcq on the previous day. This shows 
that Maunoury's move, although it certainly sur- 
prised, did not disturb the German commanders 
overmuch, once they knew that the answering 
move of Kluck against Maunoury was being carried 
out under favourable conditions. On the contrary, 
the German commanders argued that, since the 
French were stronger on their wings than had been 
expected, they must be correspondingly weaker 
at their centre. Hence von Hausen's attack on 
Foch on the 7th, supported by the severe fighting 
of those carried out simultaneously by Wurtemberg 
on de Langle and the 4th French army further east. 
The value set on these attacks, and upon those of 
the day that followed, by the high German com- 
mand was further enhanced by the proclamation 
which was issued to the German troops at Vitry le 
Frangois on September 7, at 10 p.m. This procla- 
mation, which, like that of Jonre on the preceding 
day, was calculated to stimulate the ardour of the 
combatants, ended with the words : " Everything 



J^attLeofftre 
Jfausenj attaxKt/S*fl J 




MAP 18. 



To face page 184. 



BATTLE OF FERE CHAMPENOISE 185 

depends on the result of to-morrow." Those words 
clearly applied to the efforts of the German armies 
of the centre, regardless of what the issue might be 
elsewhere. This proclamation, however, is always 
quoted in current accounts of the war at the opening 
of the narratives dealing with the battle on the Ourcq, 
which makes it appear that everything depended 
on the issue of that battle, whereas the locality from 
which the German proclamation was issued and the 
date of the document prove the contrary, and that 
the decisive action was fought, not near Paris, but 
in the centre, between Sezanne and Vitry le Franois. 

We are here chiefly concerned, however, with the 
action of Foch's army. 

This army was the smallest French army on the 
long line of battle, as it only consisted of two army 
corps, a detached division, and the Morocco division 
which had formerly belonged to the 5th army under 
Franchet d'Esperey. 

Retreating from the Aisne across the Marne, these 
troops had reached a line stretching, roughly, from 
Champaubert, through Fere Champenoise to Mailly, 
when, on September 6, Joffre's famous proclama- 
tion that the retreat was at an end and France about 
to strike was issued. The armies of de Langle and 
Foch halted, but instead of assuming the offensive, 
they remained where they were, and entrenched, 
severe fighting going on all the time with the ad- 



186 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

vanced parties of the enemy. This momentary in- 
action at a time when all Joffre's line, from Paris to 
Verdun, was supposed to spring forward in order to 
drive the invader back is easily explained, and shows 
out in all its grand simplicity the plan conceived by 
the French generalissimo for trapping and surround- 
ing the Germans between Paris and Verdun. Foch 
and de Langle, as they suddenly arrested their 
retreating columns and wheeled them sharply round 
from the high ground above Sezanne to the banks 
of the Saulx, decided to wait and give time to the 
turning movement of Maunoury to develop before 
they began their advance, so that the trap should 
close securely round the Germans. These hopes 
were disappointed by the quickness with which 
Maunoury struck, for Kluck, on the alert, walked 
swiftly out of the trap, and Bulow likewise, although 
with less mastery. It was left now to Foch to 
retrieve the day, and, in order to appreciate the 
importance of his victory, it is as well to remember 
that the Germans had the means of entrenching on 
the Marne as they did later on on the Aisne. The 
issue of the war would have been uncertain, Paris 
would have been bombarded, like Rheims, and the 
French northern ports occupied by the Germans. 
Foch's achievement is, therefore, worthy of wide 
recognition. 

The advance of von Hausen against Foch re- 



BATTLE OF F^KE CHAMPENOISE 187 

sembled that of Kluck on September 5 south of the 
Marne, in this particular : that he (Hausen) also 
bore to his left, eastward, but to this direction he 
was chiefly committed by the character of the coun- 
try. To his right, he had in front of him the swampy 
grounds of St. Gond, near Champaubert, and the 
heights which rose south of it towards Sezanne; 
whilst to his left, east of Fere Champenoise and 
towards Chalons and Mailly, the country was per- 
fectly flat, although rather broken and intersected 
with woods. Hausen's plan was to " contain " the 
French forces on his front between Champaubert 
and Sezanne, whilst with his left he drove a powerful 
wedge between Foch and de Langle's armies near 
Sommesous and Mailly. The disposition of his 
forces was curious, and shows that in their hurried 
advance the German corps had again crossed each 
other in their paths, the 19th (Saxon) corps, which 
originally was on the right, being now on the left, 
near Chalons, whilst the 12th was now on the right, 
towards Champaubert, and the Guards were in the 
centre. This new disposition was favourable to the 
Germans, since the elite of their army would be 
brought to bear on the point at which they intended 
to pierce the French line ; but in one particular it 
was vicious, as the hurry of the advance had left 
no time nor sufficient space for the rear corps (the 
llth Saxon) to deploy. This corps was, therefore, 



188 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

destined to be brought into the fight piecemeal, and 
to achieve little, although it suffered terribly from 
the French artillery fire, a single regiment sustain- 
ing over 2,000 casualties. Furthermore, during the 
confusion produced in the German ranks, on the 
evening of the 9th, by Foch's sudden and unexpected 
masterstroke, the 1 1th German corps lost its bearings, 
and ran hither and thither, north, south and west, 
until it found itself, on the morning of the 10th, 
near Chalons, on the path of the retreating 19th 
corps, not knowing, evidently, until then, that it 
was turning its back on the enemy ! The action on 
September 7 developed all along the line from the 
north of Sezanne to Mailly, Vitry le Francois, and 
the banks of the Saulx. On the 8th tremendous 
pressure was brought to bear on Foch's right, which 
stood its ground well against heavy odds, but which, 
for ulterior motives, was drawn back a few miles as 
far as Courgancon. Here the French had the ad- 
vantage of the position, for this special reason, that 
the locality was proximate to the " camp de Mailly," 
the famous rifle range and exercising grounds which, 
in the words of a Saxon officer, the French knew 
" like the backs of their hands." The French artil- 
lery and rifle fire obtained there their maximum of 
effect, the shells of the " 75's " in particular sweeping 
the plain, and searching the woods and the folds of 
the ground in a mathematical fashion that stag- 



BATTLE OF FERE CHAMPENOISE 189 

gered the Germans. The progress of the German 
columns was arrested. It was also in the vicinity 
of Mailly that the llth German corps, which fought 
but little, nevertheless sustained most heavy casu- 
alties. The Prussian Guards and the 19th corps 
dashed forward repeatedly, but in vain, against the 
French entrenchments. Their night attacks also 
failed, and both sides in this region fought them- 
selves to a standstill, until the final deb dele of 
Hausen's army, brought about by Foch's masterly 
flanking movement. Foch, during the same night 
of September 8, also withdrew towards Sezanne 
the division which was opposed to the German 12th 
corps, and which, it must be said, was giving way 
under the pressure of superior numbers. The 
Morocco division, which linked Foch's left to Fran- 
chet d'Esperey, was battling, in the neighbourhood 
of Champaubert and St. Gond, with Bulow's 10th 
corps, which had not yet been withdrawn across the 
Marne. The Morocco division, now under Foch, 
thus helped to the west Franchet d'Esperey's action 
against Bulow and, in the words of the official 
accounts, its " behaviour was heroic." 

On September 9, at 6 o'clock in the morning, the 
retirement of Foch's right wing and centre army 
corps, a movement which was carried out during 
the night, had attained its limit, and thus the 7th 
French army, although vastly outnumbered by 



190 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

von Hausen's hosts, formed a semicircle round the 
Germans, the French line running from a point north 
of Sezanne, through Allemant, Connantre and Cour- 
gan$on, to Mailly. 

Directly Foch had achieved the disposition of 
forces necessary for the success of the bold plan he 
had conceived, he launched his counter-attacks on 
Hausen's flank. The effect of this was sudden, 
terrific. Hausen, in his vain endeavour to pierce 
the French line at Mailly, had gradually massed the 
greater part of his forces there, to the east and south 
of Fere Champenoise. And he, no doubt, thought 
that his opponent had likewise reinforced his right 
by drawing on his left, whereas the contrary was 
the case, Foch having drawn in his right to reinforce 
his left, in order to turn to profit the high ground 
north of Sezanne, on which his left rested, and in 
front of which the Germans were not in such great 
strength as elsewhere. But, to make von Hausen's 
discomfiture more complete, Foch was not content 
to push his left front columns against his opponent's 
flank, but he ordered a general offensive all along 
the line, so as to protect his own flank from any 
counter-attack. Thus he executed what might be 
described, in terms of strategy, a forward contraction 
of his right wing, whilst his left, coming down from 
the above-mentioned heights, pivoted forward, round 
the moving " point d'appui " thus created. 



BATTLE OF Fl^RE CHAMPENOISE 191 

This manoeuvre of Foch was the crowning strat- 
egic achievement of the war. His left columns went 
into Hausen's flank, near Fere Champenoise, like a 
knife, or a set of knives, into butter. Taken un- 
awares, Prussian and Saxon divisions gave way in 
confusion. At and about Champenoise, Hausen's 
left wing, driven back by Foch's right, rallied some- 
what, and offered desperate resistance, some of the 
localities, hamlets, chateaux, villas and farms, 
changing hands many times. In this way a French 
regiment of the line and one of the Territorials, in 
terrific combat, finally wrested from the Prussian 
Guards the Castle of Mondement. To the north of 
Fere Champenoise Foch's triumphant columns pro- 
gressed rapidly, pushing pell-mell before them the 
disconnected units of the llth and 12th German 
corps, who fled in all directions, some to Epernay, 
others to Tours-sur-Marne, others to Chalons ; and 
Hausen, in despair, hastily collecting those remains 
of his battered army that still preserved some co- 
hesion, retreated across the Marne, thus uncovering 
Wurtemberg's right, which Foch forthwith attacked. 
All this was effected on September 9, before Kluck 
or Bulow had fallen back from the Ourcq and the 
Marne. Foch, it is true, only entered Chalons in 
person on the morning of the 1 1th, as, until then, he 
had to direct the operations against Wurtemberg's 
flank, but most of his troops by then were already 



192 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

in pursuit of the routed Saxon army on the north 
bank of the river, and it is at this precise moment 
(September 10) that Kluck and Bulow, receiving 
news of Hausen's disaster, definitely broke off the 
action near Paris and fell back northwards to the 
Aisne. 

One may add here that the Saxon army's losses 
were enormous. This army was the only one on the 
German line which was subsequently reorganised 
and placed under a new command (von Einem). 
One may also add that had not the troops under 
Foch been so exhausted as they were after all their 
exertions, or had they been equal in numbers to 
their opponents, nothing could have saved the Saxon 
army from complete annihilation. 

The losses of the Saxon army and of the Prussian 
Guard corps at the battle of Fere Champenoise cannot 
be computed with anything approaching accuracy. It 
is said, however, that when their battered remnants 
reached the line of the Aisne they were minus 300 
guns, captured or destroyed by the French, or left 
behind in the marshes of St. Gond. The number of 
prisoners must have been large, despite the rapidity 
of the German flight and the exhaustion of the 
victors ; but the exact number of German pris- 
oners made by Foch will not be known , until the 
French military authorities make a public detailed 
account of captures and losses, a thing which, for 






BATTLE OF FERE CHAMPENOISE 193 

various reasons, cannot be done during the prose- 
cution of war under modern or conscript conditions. 
The next action was that of Vitry le Fra^ois, the 
result of which was caused by that of the battle of 
Fere Champenoise. The Grand Duke of Wurtem- 
berg was outflanked south of Chalons, on the line 
Sommesous-Mailly, where Foch's right and de 
Langle's left met. Enthused by the great victory 
won by the 7th army, the soldiers of de Langle, 
who had been resisting heroically to the frantic 
attacks of Wurtemberg, resumed the offensive, and 
carried all before them. Vitry le Fra^ois, which the 
Germans had quickly, but strongly fortified, was 
stormed and captured, and the rest of the 4th 
German army was overthrown on the banks of the 
Saulx, and driven back northwards, in disorder, in 
the direction of Chalons, Suippes and Rheims. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE OVERTHROW OF THE LARGEST GERMAN ARMY 
BY THE ARMY OF SARRAIL BEFORE VERDUN 

ALTHOUGH it may be said in all fairness that what- 
ever took place along the fighting line in France 
after September 9 was the result, direct or indirect, 
of Foch's stupendous victory in the centre, yet there 
was another action on the issue of which a good 
deal depended, and which for that reason is worthy 
of record. 

This action was fought by General Sarrail with 
the 3rd army, and had for its main object the defence 
of Verdun, or rather of the approaches to it, for, in 
the words of a French general, a "place assiegee" is a 
"place prise" (a besieged stronghold is a town taken). 

Verdun, as we have seen, was the eastern pivot 
of the western armies of France, the eastern armies, 
between Toul and Belfort, acting independently 
(in the tactical sense). The Germans had contem- 
plated, at a very early date, the taking of Verdun, 
where the most important railway lines of north- 
eastern France converge, and where the Germans 
would have found a great arsenal and a huge amount 
of supplies. What the possession of the fortress 

194 



nattU of Verdun 

Position onSeplcm 8--Q 




MAP 19. 



To face page 194. 



OVERTHROW OF THE GERMAN ARMY 195 

would have meant to them it is difficult to estimate, 
but it would have meant a good deal ; its capture, 
at any rate, would have counteracted any success 
of the French elsewhere, and appreciably altered the 
course of the war. 

Here we must point out the curious attitude of 
mind of most people the public and the military 
" experts " alike in reference to the apparently 
passive role played by the great French eastern 
fortress. It is readily assumed by these learned 
critics that because the Germans did not invest 
or take Verdun that they had no intention of doing 
so. This is a grotesque idea, considering that the 
centre German army, whose task it was from the very 
beginning to approach Verdun in order to besiege 
it, or to isolate it which in modern war comes to 
the same thing was the largest army on the German 
line and was placed under the Crown Prince of 
Germany, whose chief of the staff, von Eichhorn, was 
one of the best generals in Germany. This army con- 
sisted of the 3rd, 1st Bavarian and 16th army corps, 
and six divisions of reserves, not counting, of course, 
the cavalry and the help that the Crown Prince 
of Germany was to receive in the course of events 
from his colleague the Grand Duke of Wurtemberg, 1 
whose army was almost as large as his own. The 

1 This does not include the 5th army corps, which was 
detached to attack the "Grand Couronne" of Nancy, as 
shown at p. 156-7. 



196 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

army of Sarrail (formerly under Ruffey) was smaller 
than the army of the Crown Prince by no less than 
five infantry divisions the Crown Prince having 
fifteen, and Sarrail only ten. Yet we are asked 
by these " experts " to believe that such a force was 
meant to remain inactive and wait, with arms 
folded, for developments to take place elsewhere. 
The terrific battle in the Ardennes ; SarraiTs tre- 
mendous counter-stroke at Virton ; the hotly- 
contested actions of Arrancy, of Spincourt, of 
Longuyon ; and the energetic and effective manner 
in which the 3rd French army disputed the crossings 
of the Meuse to the enemy till the beginning of the 
Great Retreat all this is ignored or forgotten. 
So are the great sorties made by the garrison 
of Verdun against the flank of the Germans during 
the Crown Prince's advance. Thousands of French 
soldiers have fallen for the protection of their 
fortress, but their prowess will probably remain 
unrecognised and unsung by the indifference and 
the lazy-mindedness of the multitude. 

The Germans meant to take Verdun they did 
all they could to approach it and besiege it. The 
change of plan imposed on them by Joffre's retreat 
did not alter the strategic objective of the Crown 
Prince. We have seen how General von Stranz, who 
was marching on Verdun from the west, changed 
the direction of his columns in order to attack the 






OVERTHROW OP THE GERMAN ARMY 197 

" Grand Couronne " of Nancy. It was a mistake, 
for General Sarrail with this additional German 
corps against him, being in the position he stood 
in at the time, would have been surrounded and 
overwhelmed, but the mistake was of the Germans' 
making ; they were again playing into Jofire's 
hand ; and this does not alter the fact that the 
biggest German army, under the Crown Prince, 
fought incessantly with the main object of isolating, 
of investing, and of taking Verdun, and that to 
attain this object the Crown Prince of Germany and 
his counsellor, von Eichhorn, did all in their power 
to overwhelm and destroy the 3rd French army 
under General Sarrail. 

Sarrail during the retreat had a difficult and thank- 
less task to perform. As he fell back through the 
broken and wooded country of the Argonne so as 
not to lose his connection with the other French 
armies on his left, he had to protect Verdun from 
north, east and west. The Crown Prince had suffi- 
cient forces to deploy round his opponent, to cut 
through his lines from east to west and west to east, 
and surround and drive in into Verdun at least a 
portion of Sarrail's army. The German 3rd army 
corps advanced through the forest, making straight 
for Bar le Due, whilst the 1st Bavarian and the 16th 
army corps pressed on in the direction of Troyon 
and St. Mihiel. To the east of Verdun German 



198 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

reserve divisions made their way, on the right bank 
of the Meuse, with the object of crossing the river 
near St. Mihiel and linking their efforts to those 
of the German forces which were operating on the 
left bank. Had the Crown Prince's plan succeeded 
Sarrail's right army corps, which rested on Verdun, 
would have been cut off from the rest and driven 
into the fortress ; whilst to the south, Sarrail would 
have lost his connection with the 4th army on his 
left and been driven into Toul. What the moral 
effect of such a development would have been on 
the defenders of Nancy, who were fighting back to 
to back with Sarrail at the time, it is difficult to 
say ; but the German success would have heavily 
counterbalanced the successes already achieved by 
the Allies on the Marne. That these successes of 
the Allies weighed heavily on the minds of the 
Crown Prince and his generals there is no doubt, 
but their army was powerful and practically intact, 
and, therefore, they had the means of gaining a 
complete victory before the Allies had time to make 
further progress elsewhere. 

On the 8th of September the army under Sarrail 
reached the limit of its retirement. The Germans, 
continuing to press on, were attacking in strength, 
all along the line and on all sides. On the next 
day (the same day as the battle of Fere Cham- 
penoise) Sarrail counter-attacked in his front, whilst 



OVERTHROW OF THE GERMAN ARMY 199 

he diverted from left to right his two cavalry corps 
to check the progress of the Germans who had 
succeeded in crossing the Meuse in his rear, near 
St. Mihiel. Both operations succeeded beyond the 
expectations of the French general. At St. Mihiel 
the Germans were driven back with heavy losses 
across the Meuse ; on Sarrail's left, near Revigny, 
the 3rd German corps, which was endeavouring to 
reach Bar le Due, was thrown back after a murderous 
struggle ; whilst in the centre the 16th German 
corps lost eleven batteries, destroyed by the French 
artillery. It was on the next day (September 10) 
that the Crown Prince, completely baffled, and now 
distracted by the news of Hausen's and Wurtemberg's 
overthrow at Fere Champenoise and Vitry le Franyois 
and the sudden retreat of Bulow and Kluck to the 
Aisne, made his desperate attempt against the fort 
of Troyon. His army corps lay then on a straight 
line running from Triaucourt, south of the Argonne, 
through Beauzee to Troyon. They all faced east, 
thus offering their flank to Sarrail's advancing 
columns. The disposition of the German corps, 
then, show that the Crown Prince, or rather von 
Eichhorn, his counsellor, felt sure they could batter 
their way through the Meuse to Metz. They no 
doubt could have done so, for the Troyon fort, which 
barred the way, in spite of the wonderful and heroic 
resistance it offered, must have been speedily 



200 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

reduced ; but Sarrail gave no respite to his war- 
worn battalions ; and overcoming the difficulties 
of the ground and the obstacles and defences hastily 
put up by the enemy to delay his advance, the French 
general carried all before him. The Crown Prince 
gave up the forlorn attempt, and withdrew his 
battered forces through the immense forest across 
which his opponent himself had retreated a few days 
previously, but in a totally different manner ; for 
the Crown Prince's retreat resembled a rout. He left 
behind him prisoners, wounded and baggage, and at 
last got into line, to the north of Verdun, with the 
other discomfited and terribly depleted German 
armies, which now spread along the Aisne, as far 
as Soissons, behind a strong line of defensive works, 
a line which they were enabled to make stronger 
by the temporary exhaustion of their adversaries, 
who besides, it must be owned, were not prepared 
for the course of action the Germans, after their 
huge defeat, were about to take. The Allies, elated 
by success, had lost, in their swift advance and 
relentless pursuit of the enemy, some of their own 
cohesion. Otherwise they might have quickly 
carried the first line of defences hastily thrown up 
by the Germans along the river Aisne, and they might 
thus have kept the enemy on the run, if not as far as 
the Rhine, at least as far as the Belgian frontier. 
The victory of the Marne, however, in a general 



OVERTHROW OF THE GERMAN ARMY 201 

sense, was complete. The Germans had not been 
annihilated, nor definitely overthrown as Joffre had 
meant that they should be. But the shadow of 
defeat and of permanent invasion that had hung 
over France until then was dispelled, and dispelled 
for ever. The theory of German invincibility 
which had been flouted across the world for half a 
century was shattered. It was proved in this titanic 
action, which settled the future destinies of Europe, 
that the Germans, with the superiority of numbers 
(which they enjoyed all along the line), and a most 
perfect military organisation, were unable to crush 
their adversaries, as they were expected to do by the 
vast majority of onlookers. On the contrary, they 
were thrown back and pursued for a distance of 
forty miles by opponents who were much weaker in 
numbers and who further lacked the military organ- 
isation and thorough preparation of the Germans. 

To what was this surprising result due ? To 
bravery, courage, fighting power ? To a certain 
extent, perhaps, but not altogether, for the Germans 
also are brave and courageous and know how to 
fight. Their tactics were fine, and although these 
tactics were of a murderously costly kind to the 
people employing them, they reached a completeness 
and standard higher than that of the French. 

The victory of the Allies was due to superior 
strategy, for everything else being equal, or even 



202 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

somewhat unequal, as was the case in this campaign, 
strategy must and will always prevail. Good lead- 
ing, sound principles of war will give a weaker army 
the advantage over a stronger one in the long run. 
The behaviour of the Allies, of the English, of the 
Belgians, of the French was fine. The despised 
Belgian army fought well at Lou vain. The English 
musketry fire staggered the Germans at Mons, at 
Cambrai. The " 75 " French guns were a revela- 
tion, as was the wonderful suppleness and elasticity 
of the French infantry fighting all the time against 
heavy odds ; but in spite of all that, the Germans 
must have won the campaign, and the war, if they 
had had a Joffre or a Foch at their head. For it 
must never be forgotten that the greatest surprise 
of this war was not the heroic conduct of the Bel- 
gians, nor the tactical efficiency of the " contempt- 
ible " little army of Britain, but the totally unknown 
and unadvertised ability of the French Staff. It is to 
the French Staff, to men like Joffre, Foch, Pau, 
Castelnau and Sarrail that France owes her safety 
and the Allies their success over the consummately 
well-trained and highly-organised legions of the vast 
Germanic hordes. For without the first French 
offensive in Alsace, which gave the Allies the initia- 
tive the initiative which they have kept ever 
since and are not likely to lose without the 
successful defence of Nancy and Verdun; without 



OVERTHROW OF THE GERMAN ARMY 203 

the great retreat and Foch's crowning manoeuvre 
at Fere Champenoise, the campaign would not, and 
could not, have been won. France would have been 
speedily crushed and conquered ; Belgium would 
have remained for ever in German hands, and 
Russia, in her turn, would have succumbed under 
the irresistible avalanche of the victorious German 
armies. As for England . . . but it is enough ! 
We leave to the imagination of the reader the pic- 
ture of what the eventuality of a struggle between 
England and a totally Germanised Europe might 
have been, and to realise what debt of gratitude 
is due to the nation which has unflinchingly and 
silently sustained the brunt of the overwhelming 
attacks of Germany. 

We have to add here, however, that the victory, 
although it was won, was not of a definite character. 
The so-called victory of the Marne (which, perhaps, 
would be more aptly named if it were called the 
battle of " Fere Champenoise ") was not definite. 
It did not, and could not, end the war, nor even 
shorten it, and that for many reasons, one of which 
we have stated above the premature action of the 
French 6th army on the Ourcq. The other reasons 
were obvious the numerical preponderance of the 
Germans, their almost inexhaustible resources, and 
their vast and thorough preparations for war. 
France, on the other hand, was handicapped from 



204 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the start, and even after the defeat of the German 
onrush and the terrible losses of the invaders ; even 
with England to help her and the Belgian field 
forces also on her side, France could hardly hope to 
do much more than she had done, unless she wished 
to bleed to death and to emerge out of the struggle 
victorious, but terribly withered and maimed. The 
main object had been achieved the invaders 
had been checked, driven back, and forced to 
assume the defensive. This in itself was a wonder- 
ful, marvellous result. It was victory ; but there 
was a harder task to perform that of battering the 
foe, of reducing his strength, and of crushing him 
in the end and for all time. 

In order to effect this the forces of France alone 
were not sufficient, and thus a sort of waiting game 
was imposed on General Joffre, whose course of action 
was now to gather all his forces whilst he kept the 
enemy busy along the lines on which, through politi- 
cal more than strategical reasons, the Germans had 
elected to remain. How he effected this ; how the 
Belgian army, which was isolated at Antwerp, was 
enabled to add its strength to the allied line ; how 
the Russian pressure in the east made itself felt in 
the long run on the German front in France, and 
how England gradually enlarged her share of the 
military operations will be shown in the second 
phase of the history of the war. 




jnd offferman retreat from thejffctrnc 
Position. ofWejlcm armies in france 
on. or aout Jept /2.I3--/0/4 



MAP 20. 



To face page 204. 



APPENDIX 

THE disposition of the German field units (army 
corps) as given in this narrative of the campaign is 
not quite in keeping with the official accounts. It 
is, nevertheless, correct, the official accounts contain- 
ing many discrepancies and contradictory statements 
on the subject. Thus to quote a few instances 
in Sir John French's dispatch on the battle of 
the Marne, the German army under Kluck is made 
to contain the 3rd army corps, the 4th reserve and 
the 7th corps, whereas this corps, the 7th, formed 
part of the army under General Bulow, the 4th 
reserve was near Antwerp, and the 3rd corps be- 
longed to the Crown Prince's command near Verdun 
and Metz ; in the French official survey of the war 
the 8th corps is given to the Crown Prince, whereas 
it really belonged to the Duke of Wurtemberg's 
command, and was fighting at the time mentioned 
(September 8-10) not near Revigny, in the Argonne, 
but at Vitry le Fra^ois, on the Marne. In various 
accounts drawn from official sources other inaccur- 
acies of the kind occur, some of them being appar- 
ently due to careless figure writing. Thus we find 

205 



206 GERMANY IN DEFEAT 

the 10th corps, which appertained to Bulow's com- 
mand, made to belong also to the Crown Prince's 
army at the other extremity of the western line in 
France. The corps mentioned as being under the 
Crown Prince was really the 1st Bavarian, written 
down in abbreviated form thus : IB, the " B " of 
Bavarian looking like an " 0." In the same way 
the llth corps (Hausen) is often confused with the 
17th, and placed under the command of Wurtem- 
berg. Here the figure 7 looks like 1. The error made 
in the French official survey in connection with the 
8th corps is probably due to the same cause, the 
figure 3 being often made to resemble an 8. 

We have spared no pains to find out the exact 
composition of the German armies in France in 
August-September, 1914. It was not an easy task, 
as the secrecy enforced by the German military 
authorities as to the distribution of their forces was 
almost as severe as the French, but in spite of all 
difficulties we have succeeded in drawing up an 
accurate memorandum of German army corps which 
were operating in France in the early days of 
September, and their groupings under different 
commands '. 

1st army General von Kluck : 2nd, 2nd 
reserve, 4th army corps. 

2nd army General von Bulow : 7th, 9th, 10th, 
10th reserve^ 



APPENDIX 207 

3rd army General von Hausen : Guard, llth, 
12th, 19th army corps ; this command is generally 
termed Saxon army. 

4th army Grand Duke of Wurtemberg : 8th, 
13th, 17th, and reserve corps of one of these. 

5th army Crown Prince : 3rd, 5th, 16th, 1st 
Bavarian, three reserve corps. 

6th army Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria : 21st, 
2nd and 3rd Bavarian, two reserve corps. 

7th army General von Heeringen : 14th, 15th, 
18th, one reserve corps. 

This does not include cavalry, of which there 
were ten divisions variously distributed amongst 
the different commands, nor the 4th reserve and 
6th army corps of Kluck, which were operating 
against the Belgians near Antwerp. 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

1. The French " communiques." 

2. The dispatches of Sir John French. 

3. French official survey of the war, Bulletin des 
Armies, December 5, 1914. 

4. French official account, entitled " Six Months 
of War." 

5. Accounts given by officers of the French Staff 
to various members of the Press on the operations 
around Luneville, Nancy, Verdun, and on the banks 
of the Ourcq. 

6. Official reports on atrocities for ascertaining 
the exact position of certain German units at certain 
dates. 

7. French advertisements for men lost on the 
various battlefields, for ascertaining the position of 
certain French units. 

8. Diaries of officers and men, especially German, 
for ascertaining the position of German and French 
units. 

9. German casualty lists, for ascertaining the 
position of certain units ; and a mass of other 
reliable material. 

THE LONDON AND NORWICH PRESS, LIMITED, LONDON AND NORWICH, ENGLAND 



D Souza, Charles de, count 

521 Germany in defeat 

S68 4th ed. 

1916 

phi 



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