The Battle of Lorraine (14 August – 7 September 1914) was a battle on the Western Front during the First World War. The armies of France and Germany had completed their mobilisation, the French with Plan XVII, to conduct an offensive through Lorraine and Alsace into Germany and the Germans with Aufmarsch II West, for an offensive in the north through Luxembourg and Belgium into France, supplemented with attacks in the south to prevent the French from transferring troops to the greater threat in the north.
The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.
Belgian military planning was based on the assumption that other powers would uphold Belgian neutrality by expelling an invader. The likelihood of a German invasion did not lead the Belgian government to see France and Britain as potential allies nor did it intend to do more than protect its independence. The Anglo-French Entente (1904) had led the Belgians to perceive that the British attitude to Belgium had changed and that they would fight to protect Belgian independence. A General Staff was formed in 1910 but the Chef d'État-Major Général de l'Armée, Lieutenant-Général Harry Jungbluth was retired on 30 June 1912 and not replaced by Lieutenant-General Chevalier de Selliers de Moranville until May 1914.
Moranville began planning for the concentration of the army and met railway officials on 29 July. Belgian troops were to be massed in central Belgium, in front of the National redoubt of Belgium ready to face any border, while the Fortified Position of Liège and Fortified Position of Namur were left to secure the frontiers. On mobilisation, the King became Commander-in-Chief and chose where the army was to concentrate. Amid the disruption of the new rearmament plan, the disorganised and poorly trained Belgian soldiers would benefit from a central position to delay contact with an invader but it would also need fortifications for defence, which were on the frontier. A school of thought wanted a return to a frontier deployment, in line with French theories of the offensive. Belgian plans became a compromise in which the field army concentrated behind the Gete river, with two divisions forward at Liège and Namur.
German strategy had given priority to offensive operations against France and a defensive posture against Russia since 1891. German planning was determined by numerical inferiority, the speed of mobilisation and concentration and the effect of the vast increase of the power of modern weapons. Frontal attacks were expected to be costly and protracted, leading to limited success, particularly after the French and Russians modernised their fortifications on the frontiers with Germany. Alfred von Schlieffen Chief of the Imperial German General Staff (Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL) from 1891–1906, devised a plan to evade the French frontier fortifications with an offensive on the northern flank with a local numerical superiority. By 1898–1899, such a manoeuvre was intended to rapidly pass through Belgium, between Antwerp and Namur and threaten Paris from the north.
Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, generally called Count Schlieffen was a German field marshal and strategist who served as chief of the Imperial German General Staff from 1891 to 1906. His name lived on in the 1905–06 'Schlieffen Plan', then Aufmarsch I, a deployment plan and operational guide for a decisive initial offensive operation/campaign in a one-front war against the French Third Republic.
The German General Staff, originally the Prussian General Staff and officially Great General Staff, was a full-time body at the head of the Prussian Army and later, the German Army, responsible for the continuous study of all aspects of war, and for drawing up and reviewing plans for mobilization or campaign. It existed unofficially from 1806, and was formally established by law in 1814, the first general staff in existence. It was distinguished by the formal selection of its officers by intelligence and proven merit rather than patronage or wealth, and by the exhaustive and rigorously structured training which its staff officers undertook. Its rise and development gave the German armed forces a decisive strategic advantage over their adversaries for nearly a century and a half.
The Oberste Heeresleitung was the highest echelon of command of the army (Heer) of the German Empire. In the latter part of World War I, the Third OHL assumed dictatorial powers and became the de facto political authority in the empire.
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger succeeded Schlieffen in 1906 and was less certain that the French would conform to German assumptions. Moltke adapted the deployment and concentration plan, to accommodate an attack in the centre or an enveloping attack from both flanks as variants to the plan, by adding divisions to the left flank opposite the French frontier, from the c. 1,700,000 men expected to be mobilised in the Westheer (Western Army). The main German force would still advance through Belgium and attack southwards into France, the French armies would be enveloped on the left and pressed back over the Meuse, Aisne, Somme, Oise, Marne and Seine, unable to withdraw into central France. The French would either be annihilated or the manoeuvre from the north would create conditions for victory in the centre or in Lorraine on the common border.
Helmuth Johannes Ludwig Graf von Moltke, also known as Moltke the Younger, was a German general who served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. He was a nephew of Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke who is commonly called "Moltke the Elder" to differentiate the two.
Under Plan XVII, the French peacetime army was to form five field armies of c. 2,000,000 men, with groups of Reserve divisions attached to each army and a group of reserve divisions on the flanks. The armies were to concentrate opposite the German frontier around Épinal, Nancy and Verdun–Mezières, with an army in reserve around Ste. Ménéhould and Commercy. Since 1871, railway building had given the French General staff sixteen lines to the German frontier against thirteen available to the German army and the French could wait until German intentions were clear. The French deployment was intended to be ready for a German offensive in Lorraine or through Belgium. It was anticipated that the Germans would use reserve troops but also expected that a large German army would be mobilised on the border with Russia, leaving the western army with sufficient troops only to advance through Belgium, south of the Meuse and the Sambre rivers. French intelligence had obtained a 1905 map exercise of the German general staff, in which German troops had gone no further north than Namur and assumed that plans to besiege Belgian forts were a defensive measure against the Belgian army.
A German attack from south-eastern Belgium towards Mézières and a possible offensive from Lorraine towards Verdun, Nancy and St. Dié was anticipated; the plan was a development of Plan XVI and made more provision for the possibility of a German offensive through Belgium. The First, Second and Third armies were to concentrate between Épinal and Verdun opposite Alsace and Lorraine, the Fifth Army was to assemble from Montmédy to Sedan and Mézières and the Fourth Army was to be held back west of Verdun, ready to move east to attack the southern flank of a German invasion through Belgium or south against the northern flank of an attack through Lorraine. No formal provision was made for combined operations with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) but joint arrangements had been made and during the Second Moroccan Crisis in 1911, the French had been told that six divisions could be expected to operate around Maubeuge.
At midnight on 31 July – 1 August, the German government sent an ultimatum to Russia and announced a state of "Kriegsgefahr" during the day; the Turkish government ordered mobilisation and the London Stock Exchange closed. On 1 August, the British government ordered the mobilisation of the navy, the German government ordered general mobilisation and declared war on Russia. Hostilities commenced on the Polish frontier, the French government ordered general mobilisation and next day the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding passage through Belgian territory and German troops crossed the frontier of Luxembourg. Military operations began on the French frontier, Libau was bombarded by the German light cruiser SMS Augsburg and the British government guaranteed naval protection for French coasts. On 3 August, the Belgian Government refused German demands and the British Government guaranteed military support to Belgium, should Germany invade. Germany declared war on France, the British government ordered general mobilisation and Italy declared neutrality. On 4 August, the British government sent an ultimatum to Germany which expired at midnight on 4–5 August, Central European Time. Belgium severed diplomatic relations with Germany and Germany declared war on Belgium. German troops crossed the Belgian frontier and attacked Liège.
The 6th Army deployed in the XXI and XVI corps areas from the Vosges north to Metz, the III Corps arriving from 8–12 August and moving to the border from Beux to Béchy and Rémilly, the II Bavarian Corps deployed from 7–10 August from Lucy to Château Salins and Moerchingen and the XXI Corps mobilised around Dieuze on 10 August and moved a brigade of the 42nd Division to Igney, as a flank guard for the I Bavarian Corps. On 11 August a French night attack was repulsed but events in the Vosges led to the I Bavarian Corps moving quickly to Eyweiler and Sieweiler.
The main French offensive in the south began on 14 August, when the First Army (General Auguste Dubail) advanced with two corps into the Vosges and two corps north-east towards Sarrebourg, as the two right-flank corps of the Second Army (General de Castelnau) advanced on the left of the First Army. One corps and the Second Group of Reserve Divisions advanced slowly towards Morhange in echelon, as a flank guard against a German attack from Metz. The First Army had captured several passes further south since 8 August, to protect the southern flank as the army advanced to Donon and Sarrebourg.
Despite warnings from Joffre against divergence, the army was required to advance towards the Vosges passes to the south-east, eastwards towards Donon and north-east towards Sarrebourg. German troops withdrew during the day, Donon was captured and on the left flank, an advance of 10–12 km (6.2–7.5 mi) was made. At dusk the 26th Division of the XIII Corps attacked Cirey and was engaged by artillery and machine-guns, which repulsed the French with many casualties. On 15 August, the Second Army reported that German long-range artillery had been able to bombard the French artillery and infantry undisturbed and that dug-in German infantry had inflicted many casualties on the French as they attacked.
The Second Army had to attack methodically after artillery preparation but managed to push back the Germans. Intelligence reports identified a main line of resistance of the German 6th Army and 7th Army (combined under Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria) close to the advanced French troops and that a counter-offensive was imminent. On 16 August, the Germans opposed the advance with long-range artillery-fire and on 17 August, the First Army reinforced the advance on Sarrebourg. When the Germans were found to have left the city, Joffre ordered the Second Army to incline further to the north, which had the effect of increasing the divergence of the French armies.
A German counter-attack on 20 August, forced separate battles on the French armies, which were defeated and retreated in disorder. The German pursuit was slow and Castelnau was able to occupy positions east of Nancy and extend the right wing towards the south, to regain touch with the First Army. During 22 August, the right flank was attacked and driven back 25 km (16 mi) from the position that the offensive had begun on 14 August. The First Army withdrew but managed to maintain contact with the Second Army. Between 24 and 26 August, both French armies repelled the German offensive at the Battle of the Trouée de Charmes and regained the line of 14 August by early September.
In 2009, Holger Herwig used records from the Sanitätsberichte to give 34,598 casualties in the 6th Army during August, with 11,476 dead. In the 7th Army there were 32,054 casualties in August, with 10,328 men killed.
The Battle of the Marne was a World War I battle fought from 6–12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German armies in the west. The battle was the culmination of the German advance into France and pursuit of the Allied armies which followed the Battle of the Frontiers in August and had reached the eastern outskirts of Paris. A counter-attack by six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along the Marne River forced the Imperial German Army to retreat northwest, leading to the First Battle of the Aisne and the Race to the Sea. The battle was a victory for the Allied Powers but led to four years of trench warfare stalemate on the Western Front.
The Schlieffen Plan was the name given, after the First World War, to German war plans and the influence of Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen and his thinking on the invasion of France and Belgium on 4 August 1914. Schlieffen was Chief of the General Staff of the German Army from 1891 to 1906. In 1905 and 1906, Schlieffen devised an army deployment plan for a war-winning offensive against the French Third Republic. After losing the First World War, German official historians of the Reichsarchiv and other writers described the plan as a blueprint for victory. Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, succeeded Schlieffen as Chief of the German General Staff in 1906 and was dismissed after the First Battle of the Marne. German historians claimed that Moltke had ruined the plan by meddling with it.
The Battle of the Ardennes was a battle of the First World War fought on the frontiers of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg from 21 to 23 August 1914. The German armies defeated the French armies and forced the French armies to retreat. The battle was part of the larger Battle of the Frontiers, the first battle of the Western Front.
The Siege of Antwerp was an engagement between the German and the Belgian, British and French armies around the fortified city of Antwerp during World War I. German troops besieged a garrison of Belgian fortress troops, the Belgian field army and the British Royal Naval Division in the Antwerp area, after the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914. The city, which was ringed by forts known as the National Redoubt, was besieged to the south and east by German forces. The Belgian forces in Antwerp conducted three sorties in late September and early October, which interrupted German plans to send troops to France, where reinforcements were needed to counter the French armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
The First Battle of Ypres was a battle of the First World War, fought on the Western Front around Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium, during October and November 1914. The battle was part of the First Battle of Flanders, in which German, French and Belgian armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought from Arras in France to Nieuport on the Belgian coast, from 10 October to mid-November. The battles at Ypres began at the end of the Race to the Sea, reciprocal attempts by the German and Franco-British armies to advance past the northern flank of their opponents. North of Ypres, the fighting continued in the Battle of the Yser (16–31 October), between the German 4th Army, the Belgian army and French marines.
The Race to the Sea took place from about 17 September – 19 October 1914, after the Battle of the Frontiers and the German advance into France, which had been stopped at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September) and was followed by the First Battle of the Aisne (13–28 September), a Franco-British counter-offensive. The term describes reciprocal attempts by the Franco-British and German armies to envelop the northern flank of the opposing army through the provinces of Picardy, Artois and Flanders, rather than an attempt to advance northwards to the sea. The "race" ended on the North Sea coast of Belgium around 19 October, when the last open area from Dixmude to the North Sea was occupied by Belgian troops who had retreated after the Siege of Antwerp. The outflanking attempts had resulted in a number of encounter battles but neither side was able to gain a decisive victory.
The Battle of Liège was the opening engagement of the German invasion of Belgium and the first battle of the First World War. The attack on Liège, a town protected by the Fortified position of Liège, a ring fortress built from the late 1880s to the early 1890s, began on 5 August 1914 and lasted until 16 August, when the last fort surrendered. The siege of Liège may have delayed the German invasion of France by 4–5 days. Railways in the Meuse river valley needed by the German armies in eastern Belgium were closed for the duration of the siege and German troops did not appear in strength before the Fortified Position of Namur at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers until 20 August.
Plan XVII was the name of a "scheme of mobilization and concentration" that was adopted by the French Conseil Supérieur de la Guerre from 1912–1914, to be put into effect by the French Army in the event of war between France and Germany. Though it was not "a prescribed narrative for the campaign" or battle plan, the deployment made possible a prompt invasion of Germany and/or Belgium before Germany could mobilise its reserves, simultaneous to a Russian invasion of East Prussia. The plan was implemented from 7 August 1914, with disastrous consequences for the French, who were defeated in the Battle of the Frontiers (7 August – 13 September) at a cost of 329,000 casualties. The French northern armies were forced into a retreat as far as the Marne river, where in the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September), the German armies were defeated and forced back to the Aisne river.
The Battle of the Frontiers was a series of battles fought along the eastern frontier of France and in southern Belgium, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The battles resolved the military strategies of the French Chief of Staff General Joseph Joffre with Plan XVII and an offensive interpretation of the German Aufmarsch II deployment plan by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The German concentration on the right (northern) flank, to wheel through Belgium and attack the French in the rear, was delayed by the movement of French Fifth Army towards the north-west to intercept them and the presence of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on his left flank. The Franco-British were driven back by the Germans, who were able to invade northern France. French and British rearguard actions delayed the German advance, allowing the French time to transfer forces on the eastern frontier to the west to defend Paris, resulting in the First Battle of the Marne.
The Battle of Mulhouse, also called the Battle of Alsace, which began on 7 August 1914, was the opening attack of World War I by the French Army against Germany. The battle was part of a French attempt to recover the province of Alsace, which France had ceded to the new German Empire following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. The French occupied Mulhouse on 8 August and were then forced out by German counter-attacks on 10 August. The French retired to Belfort, where General Louis Bonneau, the VII Corps commander, was sacked along with the commander of the 8th Cavalry Division. Events further north led to the German XIV and XV corps being moved away from Belfort and a second French offensive by the French VII Corps, reinforced and renamed the French Army of Alsace, began on 14 August.
The Great Retreat, also known as the Retreat from Mons, is the name given to the long withdrawal to the River Marne, in August and September 1914, by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Fifth Army, Allied forces on the Western Front in the First World War, after their defeat by the armies of the German Empire at the Battle of Charleroi and the Battle of Mons. A counter-offensive by the Fifth Army, with some assistance from the BEF at the First Battle of Guise, failed to end the German advance and the Franco-British retreat continued to and beyond the Marne. From 5 to 12 September, the First Battle of the Marne ended the Allied retreat and forced the German armies to retire towards the Aisne river and fight the First Battle of the Aisne (13–28 September). Reciprocal attempts to outflank the opposing armies to the north known as the Race to the Sea followed (17 September – 17 October).
The Battle of Albert began on 25 September 1914, in what became known as the "Race to the Sea", during the First World War. It followed the First Battle of the Aisne as both sides moved northwards, trying to turn the northern flank of their opponent. The Second Army, began to assemble at Amiens in mid-September and was directed by General Joseph Joffre, the Generalissimo of the French Army, to attack near Albert.
The Battle of Halen took place on 12 August 1914 at the beginning of the First World War and was a cavalry encounter between German forces led by Georg von der Marwitz and Belgian troops led by Léon de Witte. In 1914, Halen was a small market town and a convenient river crossing of the Gete River; the town was also on the principal axis of advance of the Imperial German army. The battle was a tactical victory for the Belgians but did little to delay the German invasion of Belgium.
The Battle of Grand Couronné took place in France after the Battle of the Frontiers, at the beginning of the First World War. After the German victories of Sarrebourg and Morhange; pursuit by the German 6th Army and the 7th Army took four days to regain contact with the French. The Germans attacked to break through French defences on the Moselle, from 24 August – 13 September in three phases, the Battle of the Trouée de Charmes when the German offensive was met by a French counter-offensive, a period of preparation from 28 August – 3 September, when part of the French eastern armies was moved westwards towards Paris, then a final German attack against the Grand Couronné de Nancy. The battle was fought day and night from 4–13 September 1914 by the 6th Army and the French Second Army.
The German invasion of Belgium was a military campaign which began on 4 August 1914. Earlier, on 24 July, the Belgian government had announced that if war came it would uphold its historic neutrality. The Belgian government mobilised its armed forces on 31 July and a state of heightened alert was proclaimed in Germany. On 2 August, the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding passage through the country and German forces invaded Luxembourg. Two days later, the Belgian Government refused the demands and the British Government guaranteed military support to Belgium. The German government declared war on Belgium on 4 August, troops crossed the border and began the Battle of Liège.
The Battle of Hartmannswillerkopf or Hartmannsweilerkopf was a series of engagements during the First World War fought for the control of the Hartmannswillerkopf peak in Alsace in 1914 and 1915. Hartmannswillerkopf is a pyramidal rocky spur in the Vosges mountains, about 5 km (3.1 mi) north of Thann. The peak stands at 956 m (3,136 ft) and overlooks the Alsace Plain, Rhine valley and the Black Forest in Germany and was captured by the French army during the Battle of Mulhouse (7–10, 14–26 August 1914). From the vantage point, Mulhouse and the Mulhouse–Colmar railway could be seen and the French railway from Thann to Cernay and Belfort shielded from German observation.
The Siege of Namur was a battle between Belgian and German forces around the fortified city of Namur during World War I. Namur was defended by a ring of modern fortresses, known as the Fortified Position of Namur and guarded by the Belgian 4th Division. When the siege began on 20 August, the German forces used experience gained at the Battle of Liège (4–16 August) and bombarded the forts using German super-heavy siege artillery and four batteries on loan from Austria-Hungary, before attacking with infantry.
The First Battle of Picardy(22–26 September 1914) took place during the Race to the Sea (17 September – 19 October) and the First Battle of the Aisne (13 September – 28 September), a Franco-British counter-offensive, which followed the Battle of the Frontiers and the German advance into France during the Great Retreat, which ended at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September). The term describes reciprocal attempts by the Franco-British and German armies, to envelop the northern flank of the opposing army, through Picardy, Artois and Flanders.
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