Monday, September 01, 2014

September 1st, 1914

- After deliberations with his staff yesterday, Joffre issues General Instructions No. 4.  It orders 3rd, 4th, and 5th armies to continue their retreat, if necessary to the line of the Seine and Aube Rivers.  Once the threat to 5th Army of envelopment has passed, the French will go back on to the offensive.  Further reinforcements are to be drawn from Lorraine, while 6th Army was to cover Paris.  Though the Instructions do not specify a date on which the French are to go back on the attack, Joffre comments to the War Minister that he expects to resume the offensive by September 8th.

- Shortly after midnight, Lord Kitchener decides that given Sir John French's continued insistence on retreat, his only option is to visit French directly.  At 2am he walks into Grey's bedroom to inform him he is going to France, and thirty minutes later he leaves Charing Cross by a special train for Dover, where a fast cruiser carries him across the Channel.  By morning, Kitchener is in Paris, and has summoned French and his staff to the British Embassy, where Premier Viviani will also be present.  The BEF commander is instantly offended when Kitchener arrives - the latter has worn his blue undress Field Marshal uniform, which Sir John French takes as an attempt to pull rank.  The conversation among the group becomes increasingly heated, at which point Kitchener pulls French into a private room.  The specifics of their conversation are unknown, but Kitchener repeats the key point in a letter later today to the BEF commander, a copy of which is also sent to Prime Minister Asquith  - the BEF is 'now engaged in the fighting line, and will remain conforming to the movements of the French Army.'  Sir John French has been told as bluntly as possible that retreat out of the Entente line is not to occur, and thus the BEF is to remain in the battle.  The meeting, of course, does nothing to improve Sir John French's dispostion.

- Even as Kitchener is informing the BEF commander of his responsibilities, the 1st Cavalry Brigade and L Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, covering the rear of the BEF, come under attack by the German 4th Cavalry Division, belonging to Kluck's 1st Army, at the village of Néry.  During the fighting all but one gun of L Battery are destroyed, and the crew of No. 6 are constantly under enemy fire.  Despite continued losses, the soldiers manning No. 6 gun maintain fire for two and a half hours, providing cover for 5th Dragoon Guards to strike the Germans in their flank, forcing the Germans to retire.  Three soldiers (one posthumously) who manned No. 6 gun are awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry.  The action allows the BEF to once again escape destruction, enraging General Kluck.

Group photograph of L Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, prior to embarkation for France.  Of the men pictured,
twenty-three were killed and thirty-one wounded at Néry today.

- The French 3rd and 4th Armies, together with Foch's army detachment, launches an attack today out of the Verdun fortified region against the German 5th Army, straddling the Meuse River.  Their objective is to turn from facing northeast to facing north, so to cover the right flank of Foch's army detachment as it comes into the line.  When the French attack is called off in the afternoon, Moltke believes the Germans have smashed a major counteroffensive, and the chimera of a Cannae appears once more to him.  He orders 3rd Army to move southeast across the Aisne River, followed by the left wing of 2nd Army.  His hope is to cut behind the French force attacking 5th Army, surrounding them and allowing for their destruction.

- As the French army retreats, the maintenance of morale is crucial.  Despite the exhausting marches, soldiers must continue to obey orders to avoid having the retreat turn into a rout.  To help ensure discipline is maintained, French officers are today given authorizations to conduct executions within 24 hours of those convicted of desertion - in a life and death struggle for the survival of France, providing the right 'incentives' to the army as a whole is more important than the fate of any individual soldier.

- On the Galician Front, STAVKA, Russian army headquarters, orders 3rd Army to adjust its advance to the northwest, to close the gap between it and 5th Army, and aid the latter.  General Brusilov's 8th Army, meanwhile, is to cover 3rd Army's southern flank and advance on Lemberg.

Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army has advanced to the outskirts of Lublin to the north after its victory in the Battle of Kraśnik.  However, the Russian 4th Army opposite is being reinforced by the arrival of the Russian 9th Army, and the Austro-Hungarians are able to make no further progress.

The situation on the Galician front, Sept. 1st, 1914

No comments:

Post a Comment