Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29th, 1914

- As the number of corps assigned to the French 2nd Army increases, the northernmost are formed into a separate detachment under the command of General Louis de Maud-huy.  While Castlenau will continue to supervise the fighting in Picardy and along the Somme, Maud-huy's assignment is to execute an flanking manouevre, pivoting on Arras.  As of today Maud-huy's detachment consists of X Corps north of Albert, four cavalry divisions southeast of Arras, and reserve infantry divisions at Arras and Lens respectively.

To the east of Arras, the town of Douai is falls to a German attack this afternoon, the scratch force of English and French soldiers having to fight their way out.

- Field Marshal Sir John French informs Marshal Joffre of his intention to relocate the British Expeditionary Force to the far left of the Entente line in Flanders and Belgium.  The latter is cautiously accepting of the move - the logic of placing the British closer to their supplies and reinforcements is not lost on him.  Joffre remains concerned, however, about Sir John French's intentions - will placing him at the end of the line and so close to Britain reawaken his desire for self-preservation over co-operation?  Also, Joffre tells French that the redeployment must be undertaken one division at a time, as the bulk of the French railways are occupied with the transfer of French corps north to 2nd Army, and that on arrival the British must be prepared to go into battle at once, as opposed to waiting for the entire BEF to arrive before advancing.

- Just south of Antwerp, Fort Wavre has been so damaged by constant German bombardment that at 6pm its garrison is evacuated.  This, plus the destruction done at Fort Waelham, demonstrate unmistakably to the Belgian government that the survival of the fortifications protecting Antwerp can be measured in days.  As such, the Belgian army begins to make preparations to evacuate the city.  They intend to establish a new base at Ostend on the Channel coast, and withdraw through the corridor between the Dutch border and the Schelde River.  Two pontoon bridges at Antwerp itself allow some to cross to the north bank of the river, and though a railway bridge twelve miles west of Antwerp is within range of German artillery, trains are able to pass at night with their lights extinguished.  Today, the first to leave Antwerp are the wounded, untrained, and prisoners - the field army itself will remain as long as control of the city can be reasonably contested.  To cover the retreat corridor, the Belgian 4th Division is at Termonde on the Schelde, and Belgian cavalry patrol the river line.  These intentions are conveyed by the Belgian Prime Minister to the British and French governments, emphasizing that the decision to withdraw the government and field army from Antwerp will come when the Germans break completely through the first line of forts and are in position to attack the inner defenses of the city.

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