Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29th, 1914

- Today Sir John French orders the main British supply base to relocate from Le Havre to St. Nazaire in Normandy, and also instructs his Inspector of Communications to plan for a prolonged retreat taking the BEF south past Paris.  It reflects the one urgent desire at the forefront of his mind - escape from France.  French does not intend the BEF to make any further contribution to a campaign he already feels has been lost.

As such, when the BEF commander hears of Haig's offer to aid the French 5th Army at 2am, he immediately countermands Haig, stating that I Corps needs a day's rest.  Lanrezac is understandably furious - one listener describes him as saying 'terrible, unpardonable things about Sir John French and the British Army.'

- The Battle of Guise begins at 6am this morning when Lanrezac's 5th Army, in compliance with Joffre's orders, attacks the German 6th Army which has been pursuing them.  Advancing in a morning mist, the French catch the Germans off-guard.  The fortunes of the battle vary.  The advance of III and XVIII Corps on 5th Army's left advance four miles before being halted by a rain of artillery fire at noon.  On the right, X Corps had been halted by 11am.  By the afternoon Lanrezac orders forward his reserve, I Corps under General Louis Franchet d'Esperey, to rally the line.  At 530pm,, Franchet d'Esperey leads I Corps, accompanied by III Corps on his left and X Corps on his right, launches a strong counterattack that forces the German Guards Corps to retreat.  This gives 5th Army a tactical victory, but its position is increasingly exposed by the continued retreat of the BEF on its left.  To avoid isolation, at 10pm Joffre agrees to Lanrezac's request for his army to retire.

The Battle of Guise, Aug. 29th to 30th, 1914.

- To the east the retreat of 4th and 3rd Armies continue, the former falling behind the Meuse River below Verdun.

- The first reports of the sack of Louvain appear in the foreign press today.  Global reaction to the news is almost universal outrage, convincing some neutrals that Germany was a force of destruction, and in the Entente countries is seen as demonstrating that there can be no compromise with German barbarians, or 'Huns' as they came to be referred to.  Efforts by the German army and government to assign blame for the episode on the Belgians themselves are entirely unconvincing.

- This morning, the 151st Ermland Infantry, belonging to I Corps, and the 5th Blücher Hussars of XVII Corps, meet at the village of Willenberg, closing the noose around the Russian 2nd Army.  Three Russian corps thrash around in the pocket, but without any central co-ordination their efforts accomplish nothing.  The Russians are already exhausted after several days of fighting, and some have not ate in four days.  They also lacked reliable maps, and thus had no concrete idea of either where they were or how they could break out.  Finally, the terrain in this part of East Prussia is forested and marshy, making any kind of movement difficult at best, while on each of the causeways that criss-cross the swamps the Germans place machine-guns detachments.  The Russian 2nd Army begins to disintegrate.

- In Galicia, General Brudermann of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army has reported to Conrad that he is facing at least 400 000 Russians before him.  Due to the slow pace of the Russian advance, however, Conrad does not believe him, and orders Brudermann to attack again.  3rd Army thus attacks the Russians to the east again, in the second phase of the Battle of Gnipa Lipa.

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