Tuesday, September 02, 2014

September 2nd, 1914

- After the skirmish at Néry yesterday, Kluck briefly abandons his southeastern advance to attempt to pursue the BEF.  Once again, however, the British escape, reaching the Marne River by nightfall.  The German 1st Army thus resumes its march to the southeast.  The temporary redirection of 1st Army, however, serves to confuse Kluck's intentions in the eyes of the French - does he still intend to change course back towards Paris?

- In the French capital, the government is advised by Joffre that it should abandon Paris as soon as possible.  Doing so might lessen the attraction of Paris to the advancing Germans, and guarantee that the government remains functioning if the capital is lost.  This evening, under the cloak of darkness, the entire French government boards a train bound for Bordeaux, where they will establish themselves.  President Poincarè writes that it is 'the saddest event of my life.'

With the departure of the government, full military and civil authority is vested in General Gallieni as Military Governor of the city.  He continues his vigourous work to ensure that Paris is defensible.  No thought is given to declaring Paris an open city - indeed, in the event of attack its famous bridges over the Seine are to be dynamited to deny them to the Germans, and even the Eiffel Tower is to be destroyed.

Also, Joffre places 6th Army under the command of Gallieni.  The army, retreating for several days from its initial assembly point at Amiens, arrives today at the defences of Paris.  Its units are exhausted from both the rapid retreat and constant skirmishes with the advancing Germans.  Still, Gallieni now has the army he deems essential to ensure the defence of Paris.  Joffre, however, has the Minister of War place Paris and its forces under his authority as Commander-in-Chief.

- Joffre also issues revisions to his General Instruction No. 4 of yesterday, which for the first time states the possibility of the Paris garrison joining in the hoped-for French counteroffensive by advancing east in the direction of Meaux.

- This evening Moltke issues a new General Order to the armies on the Western Front.  Moltke's attention is now on the centre of the line, where he believes a great victory was achieved yesterday against a French counteroffensive.  In Lorraine, 6th and 7th armies are to continue to attack, while to the west of Verdun the 4th and 5th armies are to maintain pressure on the French armies opposite, and 3rd Army is to attack Foch's army detachment coming into the line.  The key role is to be played by 2nd Army, driving southeast, forcing the French armies away from Paris and turning the flank of the French 5th Army.  Finally, 1st was to protect the western flank of 2nd Army by positioning itself in echelon behind its neighbour - in essence, 1st Army was to station itself to the northwest of 2nd Army, protecting it from any French counter-attacks as it advances southeast.  The General Order reflects Moltke's increasing focus on the centre of the line, not the right, and his desire to achieve a 'Cannae'.  Gone are the ambitions to envelop Paris central to the Schlieffen Plan, and 1st Army, which was to have the most important role in the Plan, is relegated to a secondary role.

When the General Order reaches General Kluck at 1st Army headquarters, he is astonished by the instructions.  He has no information about the larger war situation, only knowing that the British and French forces in front of him continue to retreat.  Moreover, at present 1st Army is ahead of 2nd Army - to implement Moltke's General Order would require 1st Army not just to halt but to actually retreat.  He believes that his army, not 2nd, is about to secure the destruction of the French 5th Army by turning its flank.  Kluck thus decides to ignore the General Order, and continue his advance.

The Western Front, Sept. 2nd, 1914

- The westward retreat of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army, broken after the Battle of Gnipa Lupa, continues - Lemberg, fourth-largest city of the Dual Monarchy, is given up without a fight as 3rd Army retreats 32 kilometres today.  Conrad, however, sees in this retreat an opportunity to envelop and destroy the Russian 3rd and 8th Armies.  More of 2nd Army has arrived from the Serbian front, deploying to the south of 3rd Army, and is ordered to attack north into the southern flank of the two advancing Russian armies.  Meanwhile, believing the Russian 5th Army was comprehensively defeated at the Battle of Zamość-Komarów, Conrad orders 4th Army to turn southeast and attack the northern flank of the two Russian armies.  It is an enormously ambitious plan, and one completely beyond the capabilities of the Austro-Hungarians - they were exhausted by lengthy marches and had already suffered heavy casualties.  But Conrad was never one to let such details get in the way of his ambitious schemes.

- The first of sixty thousand Japanese soldiers come ashore today at Lungkow, the first step in the campaign against the German naval base at Tsingtao on the Chinese coast.  Since the entrances to Tsingtao have been heavily mined by the Germans, the Japanese land in nearby Chinese territory, and begin a methodical advance towards the German base.  Though China has declared itself neutral in the war, the Japanese have no great respect for Chinese authority, and have no compunction about violating Chinese neutrality to further their war effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment