Wednesday, September 03, 2014

September 3rd, 1914

- This morning, Lieutenant Watteau, a flyer attached to the Paris garrison, conducts a reconnaissance flight to the east of the city, which clearly shows the columns of the German 1st Army marching southeast, confirming that Kluck's army is not advancing on Paris, but rather passing to its east.  To Gallieni and his staff, this is the golden opportunity they had hardly dared dream off - now that 6th Army was at Paris, it was perfectly positioned to attack the German 1st Army in its flank.  At a staff meeting at 830pm, it is decided that if reconnaissance shows Kluck's army continued to bypass Paris, they would push for an immediate counteroffensive - foremost among Gallieni's concerns is that if Joffre continues the retreat of the French army to the Seine, Paris may be sacrificed.  To avoid this, Gallieni wants to attack with 6th Army as soon as possible.

- The German 1st Army reaches the Marne River this evening, right on the heels of the French 5th Army and the BEF, both of which had crossed the river this morning.  In the haste of their retreat, the French and British had failed to destroy a number of bridges, allowing the Germans to establish bridgeheads over the Marne.  In doing so, of course, 1st Army is disobeying Moltke's orders of yesterday.  General Kluck has sent three telegrams to OHL at Luxembourg informing him of his approach to and crossing of the Marne, but due to the constant communication difficulties none of the telegrams had actually gotten through to OHL.  As a result, Moltke is completely unaware that Kluck is disobeying his orders.

Moltke is not the only one suffering in ignorance - Kluck has directed the aircraft attached to his aircraft to focus south of his position, to observe the continuing retreat.  As he does not feel that there are any significant French forces at Paris, and because he has already left a corps to guard the Parisian flank, he does not direct any aircraft to the west.  He is thus largely ignorant of the arrival of the French 6th Army around the French capital.

- To the east of 1st Army, the 2nd and 3rd armies continued their advance.  As 2nd Army approached the Vesle River, General Bulow reported discovering the countryside littered with discarded weapons and uniforms, reinforcing his belief that he was facing a defeated foe.  Meanwhile, this afternoon General Hausen of 3rd Army orders XII Reserve Corps to capture the city of Rheims.  Attacking at night, the Germans catch the French garrison by surprise, and by midnight the city is in German hands.

- Joffre this afternoon visits the headquarters of 5th Army, where he dismisses General Lanrezac from command.  The French commander-in-chief has concluded that Lanrezac has lost his nerve, too fond of finding reasons not to attack.  Moreover, Joffre is tired of his constant suggestions and criticisms, notwithstanding the fact that Lanrezac's most important observation - the strength of the German right - was absolutely correct, and his conduct of the Battle of Charleroi, in preserving his army, may have very well saved France from destruction.  Accounts of the conversation between the two differ sharply - Joffre will say that Lanrezac was relieved to be dismissed, while Lanrezac would say he protested violently.  Regardless, the result was the same - Lanrezac is removed from his command, and will hold no other command for the duration of the war.  As his replacement Joffre appoints General Franchet d'Esperey, whose energetic and offensive spirit in leading I Corps appeals to the French commander-in-chief.

- The city of Lille has been occupied by the German army for just over a week.  However, in the continued German push to the south occupation forces simply cannot be spared to cover every point they have seized.  Today, the last German columns march through Lille on their way southward.  The 'captured' city finds itself free of Germans, and the immediate response is for several thousand young men to leave, seeking to enlist in the French army.

- Today, 33 304 men volunteer to join the British Army.  This is the highest one-day total in the war to date, and is a figure that will never be matched.  This peak in volunteers is a result of the war news from France over the past week, especially the British retreat of Mons.  It is notable that the biggest surge in recruitment comes not when the war begins, but when it appears the war might be lost.

- At the end of July the Russian government had temporarily closed state liquor shops, to ensure that the mobilization of the army went smoothly.  Today, the closure is extended until the end of the war - it is hoped that sobriety will enhance public health and improve industrial productivity.  In doing so, the Russian government deprives itself of a valuable source of tax revenue.  One can also imagine the impact it might have on the morale of the Russian people.

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