Guide The British Army In Ww I The Eastern Fronts

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On the declaration of war between Germany and France, the French Army was mobilized and advanced eastwards and north-eastwards to meet the German threat. The Battles of the Frontiers comprised four major battles:. As with Alsace, the province of Lorraine had been under German occupation since and the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. It was a matter of national pride to liberate this province, rich in coal and iron deposits and a hub of rail and road networks at the fortified city of Metz. Allowing the French to make some progress in their advance, and with the intent of drawing the French troop strength away from the German Armies successfully advancing through Belgium, the Germans then counter-attacked in Lorraine causing thousands of French casualties.

From 21 August the French encountered the numerically superior German forces of the Fourth and Fifth Armies in the forests of the Ardennes region. The Germans had selected good defensive positions in the woods in their field grey uniforms. The Germans were armed with heavy artillery pieces and machine guns.

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The attacking French soldiers were not as well-equipped nor were they as well trained in the tactics of defence as the Germans. Added to this the French soldiers were dressed in dark blue jackets and red pantalon trousers, which served to highlight their positions both in wooded terrain and open countryside. The French attacks were cut down with heavy casualties. Although the French attacks had held up the German advance for a few days, by 28 August the French had been outnumbered and were compelled to withdraw to the towns of Verdun, Stenay and Sedan.

The Belgian city of Namur lay at the junction of the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. It was also fortified with a ring of forts around it, but it could not hold out against the might of the huge German and Austrian siege howitzers. With support from only one regiment of French troops being able to reach the city, the Belgian forces defending Namur were compelled to leave. By 25 August Namur was occupied by German troops.

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With the withdrawal of the French Armies from the Ardennes region further south, the right flank of the Allied troops still in the Sambre-Meuse area was becoming dangerously exposed. The French were moving north to the Sambre river and the Germans were continuing their advance to the south-west after the fall of Namur. The French Fifth Army could not hold on and a general withdrawal was ordered. The Battle of Mons 23 August was one of the major battles in the Battles of the Frontiers and was the first encounter between British and German forces on the Western Front.

The British Expeditionary Force B. The B. Having reached the area of Mons on 22 August the B. The next day, 23 August, the German First Army launched an attack at a strength of over two to one against four British divisions with a cavalry division in reserve. The British managed to hold up the Germans, commanded by General von Kluck, inflicting heavy casualties by the superior rifle fire from the highly trained British soldiers.

With the realization that the small British force was up against a much greater force in terms of German manpower and artillery, the British ordered a retreat from Mons.

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With orders to maintain contact with the French forces also retreating on their right flank, the British found themselves fighting a rearguard action during their withdrawal and fought the Battle of Le Cateau 26 August Following the fall of Charleroi and the British withdrawal from Mons, the French Fifth Army was also retreating south to the Oise river.

Quentin and Guise to hold a line there north of the Oise river on 29 August. The position at Guise was, however, precarious and the order was given to withdraw.

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The French Fifth Army continued its retreat south across the river Oise, destroying the bridges behind it. By the end of August the French and the German Armies had sustained some , casualties, including wounded or killed, on both sides. The German advance had successfully penetrated the French border in several places and was pressing on with its advance following on the heels of the French and British forces withdrawing in a south-easterly direction. Following on from the failure of the French to hold the German advance at the Battle of Lorraine the French Second Army occupied an arc of high ground on a series of hills near Nancy.

Indeed, he arrived in his Royal Train to observe the German attack and to attend a victory parade in the captured city. The Germans caused damage to villages and to Nancy by artillery bombardments, but did not succeed in capturing the city. The advance towards Paris of five of the German Armies stretching along a line from Verdun to Amiens was set to continue at the end of August The German First Army was within 30 miles of the French capital. However, the commander of the German First Army made a fateful change to the original directive of The Schlieffen Plan, making an assumption that the Allies were not in a position to hold out against an attack on Paris from the east.

The original Schlieffen Plan directive had been for German forces to attack Paris from the north in an encircling manoeuvre. Launching an attack east of Paris on 4 September the German First Army made progress in a southerly direction. However, the change to the Schlieffen Plan now exposed the right flank of the German attacking force. With no option but to make a fighting withdrawal, all the German forces in the Marne river region retreated in a northerly direction, crossing the Aisne to the high ground of the Chemin des Dames ridge. It marked a decisive turn of events for the Allies in the early weeks of the war and Germany's Schlieffen Plan was stopped in its tracks.

One of the famous events in the crucial defence of Paris is that Parisian taxis were sent from the city carrying French reinforcement troops to the fighting front. The Germans dug defensive trenches with the intention of securing the position and preventing any further possibility of withdrawal.

This battlefield area witnessed the beginnings of entrenched positions and the change from a mobile war to a static deadlock between the opposing forces. From this date the entrenchments would gradually spread along the whole length of the Western Front, would become deeper and more impregnable and would characterize the siege warfare fighting of the Western Front for the following three and a half years.

The consequence of the Germans establishing entrenched positions on the Chemin des Dames ridge was that the Allied armies were unsuccessful in making a frontal assault on it. They were, therefore, compelled to look for open ground on either flank of the German position. A French assault on the German First Army's exposed right flank i.

During the late August battles in southern Belgium and northern France, as the French and the British Expeditionary Force were being pushed towards the Marne by the Imperial German armies, the Belgian troops in Antwerp had posed a threat to the German First Army of General von Kluck by attacking his rear columns. The Germans decided to take Antwerp to dispel this threat. On 28 th September the German heavy siege guns shelled Antwerp's outlying ring of forts, which fell.

Three brigades of British Royal Naval troops were sent to support the defence of the port and city on 6 October. However, on the day they arrived the Belgian government had already left the city. The order to evacuate the city was given for the next day, 7 October. Most of the British and Belgian troops in the city left in a south-westerly direction and the Belgian coast at Ostend. The German Army moved in to occupy Antwerp two days later. Over the next few weeks from late September to the end of November the Allied and German Armies attempted to outflank one another, responding to each other manoeuvring their armies to make a stand or cover their exposed northern flank.

Operationally it was not an intentional race to reach the French or Belgian coast before the other. However, the fight to capture the unoccupied ground on each other's northern flank, the German attempt to capture more French ground and reach Paris, against the French determination to hold up their enemy's advance resulted in the movement of the armies in a north-westerly direction towards the coast.

Battles took place as the armies sidestepped one another towards the French-Belgian coast and the Channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge. Battles of the Ypres Salient By the end of the battles of movement in the first weeks of the war had been brought to a halt.

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The fierce defence of strategic landmarks by the Allied forces resulted in a situation which became one of deadlock. Carefully selecting the most favourable high ground the Imperial German Army began the construction of a strong defensive line from early in The consolidation of the Front Lines consisted of trenches, wire defences, mined dugouts and deep bunkers, reinforced concrete emplacements and selected strongpoints, usually a reinforced farm, in an Intermediate, Second and Third defensive line.

Gradually the building and digging was carried on on both sides of the wire along a distance of approximately miles, creating a more or less continous line of trenches separating the warring belligerents along the length of The Western Front.

The Western Front, 1915

In , and both sides made attempts to break the deadlock with major battle offensives. The characteristics of siege warfare which developed on the Western Front in these three years created conditions never witnessed before. Instead of expecting to achieve objectives at a considerable distance from the start of an offensive, the type of trench warfare fighting created a situation where attacks were carried out in phases with short distance objectives and usually following a bombardment of enemy trench lines beforehand.

This strategy led to prolonged periods of fighting with success counted in gains hundreds of yards rather than miles. The human cost of casualties and dead in such a grinding type of siege warfare would be recorded in the thousands in the space of a single day. Over a period of these three years both sides suffered heavy losses in human casualties and aminals, expenditure in ammunition and equipment.

In spite of this the Front Lines stretching from the Swiss border to the Belgian coast remained more or less in the same location with little ground gained by either side. From 10 December the French launched their first offensive against the entrenched defences of the German Front in the Champagne region, the First Champagne Offensive 10 December - 17 March The fighting went on for four months, with Allied attacks also carried out against the German Front from the Yser sector in the Belgian coastal region to the Woeuvre heights south of Verdun.

The gain in ground for the Allies was very little, being up against a well-entrenched enemy and Allied casualties from the campaign were in the region of 90, The Battle of Neuve Chapelle 10 - 13 March was launched with the aim of capturing the high ground of the Aubers Ridge and in so doing, to create a threat to the German Army in occupation of the city of Lille.

Although the British broke through the German Front Line and captured the village of Neuve Chapelle, the German Sixth Army carried out counter-attacks and the British attack was halted from advancing any further. The Battle of Hill 60 17 - 22 April was launched with the explosion of mines underneath the German positions on the relatively high ground of Hill 60, south-east of Ypres. This was the first operation carried out by the British Army to lay large mines underneath the enemy position in order to blow him out of his defences.

The fighting was fierce but the British successfully captured the hill. During the Second Battle of Ypres in the days following the close of the Battle of Hill 60 the ground was recaptured by the Germans on 5 May The Second Battle of Ypres 22 April - 25 May started on a warm spring afternoon with the trial of a new weapon of war in the Ypres sector: a cloud of poisonous gas. After two attempts to release the gas earlier in the month, this was a cloud of chlorine gas released by the German Fourth Army, followed by an infantry attack. The gas cloud was blown on a gentle breeze across two French divisions in the north part of the Ypres Salient.

The German infantry advance behind the cloud was rapid, the Allied Front Line was broken and the way to Ypres was open by the end of the day.

The battle for the defence of Ypres and the recapture of lost ground included more German gas cloud attacks against the Allied troops. The Second Battle of Ypres consisted of four battles starting with the surprise gas attack by the Germans:. The following three battles were counter-attacks by the allied troops to try to regain the ground lost to the Germans.

The three battles were:. In May the Allies carried out an offensive north of Arras towards Lille.