Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
September 6 – September 10, 1914
Banks of Marne River, France – Western Front
Allies – France
Allies – Britain
Central Powers - Germany
In the early days of World War I, German troops had won a number of victories and invaded France through Belgium. This was part of the Schlieffen Plan. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Fifth and Sixth Armies had retreated to the banks of Seine River, south of the Marne. By September 3, 1914, Paris had been evacuated and the government and civilians had moved.
The French Sixth Army under the command of General Michel Maunoury launched an offensive against the German First Army, commanded by General Alexander von Kluck. The German Second Army, commanded by General Karl von Bülow, was about thirty-one miles behind General Von Kluck's troops. Having engaged the latter, French Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre ordered the French Fifth Army and the BEF to enter the gap between the two German armies, thus isolating them.
Additional troops were rushed to support the French Sixth Army and by September 9, 1914, Chief of the German General Staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, ordered the German First and Second Armies to retreat. The Allied forces were successful in throwing back the Germans across the Marne. The German troops halted near the Aisne River.
The Battle of the Marne was a costly battle for both sides. While the French recorded 250,000 causalities, the BEF marked about 12,700 causalities. The German troops lost over 222,000 soldiers. The victory at the Battle of the Marne was a significant triumph for the Allied Powers, for it foiled German plans to invade Paris. Despite having captured sizable portions of northeastern France, the German troops were forced to settle for trench warfare that lasted the rest of World War I.