German recruits march off to war, August 1914


2.  The First Moves on the Western Front, Aug.03-19.1914
AUGUST 3

Belgium.
==Belgium announces that it has rejected Germany’s demands and that any incursion of German troops will be resisted with force [700.AM]
==King Albert assumes direct command of the Belgian Army and immediately orders the demolition of the Meuse bridges near Liège and the rail links from Luxembourg - Belgian Chief of Staff Selliers attempts to thwart the order, but the bridges and tunnels around Liège are destroyed or blocked by Aug.06
==Belgium declines a French offer of military aid

Britain.
==The British Army is officially ordered to mobilize [400.PM]

French Headquarters.
==Joffre confers with his five army commanders, without giving them any useful information

Germany.
==GERMANY DECLARES WAR ON FRANCE [615.PM]


AUGUST 4

The Belgian Front.
==Germany declares war on Belgium [600.AM]
==GERMANY INVADES BELGIUM [800.AM], reaching the Meuse on both sides of Liège and crossing at Visé by mid-afternoon - German 4th Army enters the southern tip of Belgium from Luxembourg - German forces begin inflicting brutal reprisals against civilians
==The Belgian Parliament votes unanimously to resist the German invasion, to wild popular acclaim [900.AM]
==King Albert finally calls on Britain and France to aid Belgium [noon]
==Belgian forces concentrate behind the River Gete, too distant to support the Liège forts

Paris.
==French troops march through Paris past ecstatically cheering crowds

Britain.
==About to sail for Egypt, Kitchener is offered the War Ministry and begins preparing for a long, grueling war
==British Army Reserves and Territorial units are mobilized
==France urgently requests that the BEF be sent quickly [evening]
==BRITAIN ENTERS INTO A STATE OF WAR WITH GERMANY [1100.PM, London Time] - British forces are notified with a War Telegram [1120.PM]

The BEF.
==Moltke rejects a proposal by the German Navy to intercept the BEF as it crosses the Channel, prefering to “settle” with it on land, saying “The more English, the better.”

Lorraine.
==The Germans take Trieux, near Briey in Lorraine


AUGUST 5

The Belgian Front.
==Powerful German assaults on the Liège forts, to Aug.16: Belgian General Leman refuses to surrender despite German threats of reprisals [early morning] - heavy German artillery fire; repeated massed attacks are repelled with very heavy German losses [all day and through the night]
==German cavalry reaches Tongres and Namur and clashes with Belgian cavalry at Plaineveaux south of Liège [night]
==Britain, France, and Russia pledge to assist Belgium

Britain.
==Kitchener is appointed British Secretary of State for War
==The British War Council meets [400.PM], with Asquith, Grey, Churchill, Haldane, Haig, Henry Wilson, and others attending: Kitchener predicts a long war with the need for millions of men, witholds two of the six divisions intended for the BEF, and proposes that the BEF concentrate further back at Amiens; French’s proposal to send the BEF to Antwerp is rejected

The BEF.
==British Army unit commanders receive detailed embarkation orders

The Northwestern Front.
==Concerned by the strength of German forces in Belgium, General Lanrezac requests permission to extend 5th Army’s left flank

French Headquarters (GQG).
==GQG is established at Vitry-le-François in Champagne [600.AM] - ~Joffre arrives at headquarters

Germany.
==Germany reinstitutes the Iron Cross medal


AUGUST 6

The Belgian Front.
==Ludendorff leads a German brigade in penetrating the ring of forts at Liège [pre-dawn] - fierce fighting at Herstal - the Germans reach Liège city [morning]
==After surviving an attack by a German assassination detachment, commandant Leman withdraws the Belgian 3rd Division from the town
==In the war’s first aerial attack on a city, Liège is bombed by a zeppelin (which is damaged and crashes near Bonn), and then shelled by German artillery through the night
==King Albert vetoes a proposed counter-offensive and rejects Joffre’s advice to retreat to Namur and link with French forces
==Three French cavalry divisions under the command of Sordet enter Belgium

The BEF.
==After an invasion scare in the British press, the War Council reduces the BEF from six to four divisions, and finally orders it to France, to begin on Aug.09

The Central Front.
 ==(to Aug.28)  The Germans besiege Longwy fortress near the Luxembourg frontier

Alsace.
==French VII Corps commander Bonneau expresses concern that the impending offensive into Alsace is a trap [evening] - he is ignored

Germany.
==550 German troop trains are crossing the Rhine daily


AUGUST 7

The Belgian Front.
==Ludendorff occupies the town of Liège, and personally seizes the citadel [morning], but the forts surrounding the city fight on
==France awards the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor to Liège
==German cavalry probes Huy

The BEF.
==Advance parties of the BEF secretly cross to France to prepare assembly sites for the main body of the British Army

The Northwestern Front.
==Fournier, commander of the Maubeuge fortress, accurately warns that a massive German offensive over the Meuse is likely - Joffre promptly sacks him for defeatism

Alsace.
==French VII Corps takes Altkirch after a classic bayonet charge [500-1100.AM] - a French offensive in Alsace is underway


AUGUST 8

The Belgian Front.
==The first of the Liège forts falls: Fort Barchon to the northeast capitulates after intense shelling [400.PM]
==Germany prematurely announces that the entire fortified Liège complex has been taken
==King Albert warns French Foreign Minister Berthelot that the main German blow is apparently coming through Flanders and that the Belgian Army may have to withdraw to Antwerp - the preoccupied French pay no attention

The Northwestern Front.
==French 5th Army Chief of Staff d’Oissel visits GQG to voice his concerns of a German offensive through Belgium - Joffre ignores the threat

Alsace.
==The French occupy Mulhouse in Alsace without resistance [afternoon]

French Headquarters (GQG).
==Joffre issues Order #1, instructing his right wing to attack into Lorraine, followed by his center and left driving toward Thionville


AUGUST 9

The Belgian Front.
==The main body of the Belgian Army is retreating toward the River Dyle
==American diplomats refuse to forward a German peace feeler to Belgium

The Western Front (general).
==(to Aug.14)  The French Army concentrates it forces toward the frontier

The Northwestern Front.
==Joffre urges the 5th Army to advance over the Semoy into the Ardennes - Lanrezac objects

Alsace.
==(to Aug.10)  In Alsace, German counterattacks at Cernay threaten Mulhouse [morning]


AUGUST 10

The Belgian Front.
==(to Aug.12)  After frantic preparations, two super-heavy siege mortars are transported by herculean effort from the Krupp Works at Essen to Liège

The BEF.
==The first BEF troop train reaches Southampton

The Northwestern Front.
==French GQG ‘confirms’ that the main German offensive will not come through Belgium

Lorraine.
==The French defeat a German brigade at Mangiennes

Alsace.
==The French are driven from Mulhouse [700.AM]
== ~Joffre forms the Army of Alsace under Pau, on the French far right flank


AUGUST 11

The Belgian Front.
==Fort d’Evegnee east of Liège falls after violent shelling [late afternoon]
==Belgians and Germans clash at Tirlemont, St Trond, and Diest
==A personal request from French President Poincaré that Belgian forces link up with the French Army is rejected by King Albert, who refuses to be forced away from Antwerp

The BEF.
==John French first learns that the German Army will be using reserves as well as regulars as combat troops
==Douglas Haig informs King George V that he has “grave doubts” on the competence of his superior, Sir John French

The Northwestern Front.
==Concerned about 5th Army’s left, Lanrezac asks for permission to reinforce the Givet-Dinant area on the Meuse [evening]

Alsace.
==Having retreated to Belfort in Alsace, Bonneau is relieved of command of VII Corps: the first of many sackings of senior French field officers by Joffre


AUGUST 12

The Belgian Front.
==German super-heavy mortars have arrived at Liège and begin a devastating fire on the forts [545.PM]
==At Haelen, Belgian forces shoot down repeated hopeless charges by German cavalry armed with sabers [800.AM-600.PM]
==German cavalry probes the main Belgian line on the Gete River
==King Albert refuses a final German attempt to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Belgium
==Kluck’s German 1st Army begins to advance from its assembly areas at Jülich and Krefeld

The BEF.
==At a British War Council [300-600.PM], Kitchener predicts a major German drive through Belgium, but is compelled to agree to send the BEF to Maubeuge as planned instead of further back to Amiens; Kitchener orders General John French not to consider himself under the command of the French Army
==(to Aug.17)  The main units of the BEF are transported to France, totaling 80,000 troops, with the peak of shipping activity on Aug.15-17
==Colonel Repington, the London Times’ military correspondent, publishes a complete map of the German deployment, showing the strength of their drive through Belgium

The Northwestern Front.
==The 5th and 4th Armies have nearly completed their planned deployment on the French left
==Joffre allows Lanrezac to extend his forces to the Sambre and to put his left corps into Dinant, where he repells German probes, but refuses to let him shift 5th Army westwards


AUGUST 13

The Belgian Front.
==At Liège, Fort Pontisse surrenders after a crushing bombardment [1130.AM], soon followed by Forts Chaudfontaine and Embourg

Paris.
==War Minister Messimy orders work on the defenses of Paris to be sped up and completed within three weeks

The BEF.
==German cavalry erroneously reports that the BEF is landing in Belgian ports, confusing German headquarters
==(to Aug.15)  The Royal Flying Corps flies across the Channel to France, the world’s first organized air units to fly to war overseas

The Northwestern Front.
==GQG issues Order No. 6, directing the French left to prepare to advance into the Ardennes by Aug.15

The Central Front.
==The Germans occupy Neufchâteau in the Ardennes

Lorraine.
==Joffre issues the final instructions for the French Lorraine offensive
==The Germans take Lagarde

Alsace.
==The German advance from Alsace is halted at Belfort


AUGUST 14

The Belgian Front.
==The fall of Forts Fleron and Liers [morning]: all of the forts east and north of Liège have surrendered to the Germans

The BEF.
==Sir John French and British headquarters staff arrive in France
==The BEF begins marching eastwards from Amiens, cheered by French spectators

The Northwestern Front.
==The French reach Charleroi, and easily repell a German attack on Dinant
==Lt. Edward Spears is assigned as British liaison officer at French 5th Army HQ
==First Gallieni, and then Lanrezac visit GQG, but fail to convince Joffre that a massive German offensive will be coming through Belgium

Lorraine.
==The French offensive into Lorraine opens [early morning]: the Germans begin a controlled retreat to draw in the French
== ~The Germans are defeated at Drespach
==OHL (German headquarters) considers improvising a second offensive through Lorraine

Alsace.
==The French are defeated at St Marie aux Mines in Alsace, but retake Thann and Gebwieler


AUGUST 15

The Belgian Front.
==Massive shelling of the forts west of Liège: the fall of Forts Boncelles [730.AM] and Lantin [1230.PM] - Fort Loncin blows up; General Leman is captured unconcious in the ruins [540.PM]
==Belgian observers report that German forces are crossing the Meuse en masse below Huy - Belgian forces evacuate Huy

The BEF.
==Sir John French confers with French leaders in Paris

The Northwestern and Central Fronts.
==Joffre finally allows Lanrezac to face the 5th Army northwards in preparation for possible German attacks from Belgium [900.AM]
==Heavy fighting rages around Dinant between Germany cavalry and the French 5th Army [afternoon]: Lt. Charles de Gaulle is wounded
==GQG is slowly becoming aware of the German threat from Belgium: Order No. 10 is issued [330.PM], which belatedly has Lanrezac move his 5th Army into the Sambre-Meuse angle, but still orders de Langle’s 4th Army to attack into the Ardennes


AUGUST 16

The Belgian Front.
==The last of the Liège forts fall with the surrender of Flémalle and Hollogne [morning]
==The Germans and Belgians indecisively clash at Wavre
==The Germans occupy the citadel at Huy [530.AM]
==Kluck’s German 1st Army crosses into Belgium

The BEF.
==General French meets Joffre at GQG

Alsace.
==The French advance in northern Alsace, and take Schirmeck

French Headquarters (GQG).
==Joffre issues tactical advice, instructing French Army commanders not to attack without artillery support and to avoid needlessly exposing their troops to hostile fire

German Headquarters (OHL).
==OHL, including Moltke and the Kaiser, takes a special train from Berlin to their new headquarters in Coblenz


AUGUST 17

The Belgian Front.
==After German cavalry appears in force at Jodoigne, King Albert orders the Belgian government to evacuate Brussels and relocate in Antwerp
==German 1st and 2nd Armies receive orders for the advance through Belgium [430.PM]: to the annoyance of Kluck, 1st Army is put under the command of Bülow of 2nd Army
==The German 2nd and 3rd Armies begin to advance

The BEF.
==Grierson, the commander of the British II Corps, dies suddenly near Amiens [morning] - he is soon replaced by Smith-Dorrien, against Sir John French’s express wishes

The Northwestern Front.
==Sir John French’s disastrous conference with Lanrezac [1000.AM], at French 5th Army HQ in Rethel, gives rise to mutual suspicion and dislike

Lorraine.
==Foch’s XXth Corps takes Château Salins in Lorraine
==OHL begins detecting French troop movements from Lorraine to the French left wing


AUGUST 18

The Belgian Front.
==The entire German right wing is advancing into Belgium - Kluck’s 1st Army reaches the east bank of the River Gette and attempts to cut the Belgian Army off from Antwerp, to Aug.19 - King Albert reluctantly orders the Belgian Army to retreat from the Gette River line to Antwerp, away from French and British forces; Belgian headquarters falls back from Louvain to Malines - fierce rear-guard actions are fought at Tirlemont, Grimde and Hautem

The Far Northwestern Front.
==On the Allied extreme left, Joffre orders French reserve forces to form a screen between Maubeuge and Dunkirk

The Northwestern and Central Fronts.
==Joffre’s Order No. 13 to the French 3rd, 4th, and 5th Armies to prepare for the main offensive against the German center [800.AM] - Lanrezac ignores the order and marches the French 5th Army northward toward the Sambre

The Central Front.
==German 5th Army reaches the eastern edge of the Ardennes forest

Lorraine.
==Rapid French advances in Lorraine: Castelnau’s 2nd Army takes Dieuze and Dubail’s 1st Army takes Sarrebourg
==After two days of squabbling with OHL, Rupprecht decides on his own authority to launch a German counter-offensive in Lorraine, dropping plans to trap the French right [afternoon]


AUGUST 19

The Belgian Front.
==Kluck’s 1st Army crosses the Gette but finds that the Belgian Army has escaped
==The Germans occupy Louvain
==In their first mass execution of civilians, the Germans shoot 150 hostages at Aerschot

The BEF.
==The Kaiser’s Order of the Day to the German 1st Army urges it to “destroy the contemptible little English Army”
==Kitchener warns John French that a massive German offensive through Belgium seems to be developing
==The Royal Flying Corps makes its first wartime reconnaissance, in western Belgium with two aircraft, both of which promptly get lost

The Northwestern Front.
==The German attack on the Belgian forts at Namur opens (or Aug.20) - Lanrezac receives a report that Namur will probably not hold out long [morning]
==Advance units of the French 5th Army reach the Sambre

The Central Front.
==The German Crown Prince’s 5th Army and Albrecht’s 4th Army begin a slow advance into the Ardennes

Lorraine.
==Joffre orders the formation of the Army of Lorraine under Maunoury, between the 2nd and 3rd Armies
==As part of the offensive by French 2nd Army, Foch’s XXth Corps easily advances to within sight of Morhange in Lorriane
==Dubail’s 1st Army meets growing German resistance as it nears the crest of the Vosges

Alsace.
==The French under Pau retake Mulhouse in Alsace, holding it till Aug.25, and briefly take Dornach


 

1st Marne Campaign: Introduction   //   (1) Background

(3) Battles of the Frontiers, Aug.20-24   //   (4) The Long Retreat, Aug.25-Sep.04

(5) 1st Marne & Aftermath, Sep.05-15   //   Biographies and Glossary

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