• 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    Thank you for an excellent account of that dramatic day.


  • @Herr:

    Thank you for an excellent account of that dramatic day.

    You wrote as though you were a war correspondent at the front line! Great writing!


  • I just had to find an excuse to use those great quotes from the Ardennes, absolutely haunting. People fairly criticize the trench warfare for being a meat grinder, but I think people all to often fail to comprehend the sheer slaughter that was open warfare in the days before tanks, effective forms of walking fire, and small unit tactics. When that French officer talked about thousands of bodies in the field, he meant it. Statistically, the battle of the Frontiers was as bloody as the war was ever going to get. Out of roughly 1.25 million men the French put into the field at the start of the month, 320-30,000 would be casualties within a month, with most of the fighting occurring in about 3 weeks from the start of the Battle of the Frontiers to the conclusion of the First Battle of the Marne. The Germans would suffer roughly 310,000 in the same period of time.

    To put that properly in perspective, the Battle of Verdun, which had roughly 299 days of heavy fighting, you had 350-380,000 French casualties to 330-350,000 German casualties over the course of the entire battle.


  • @DarthShizNit:

    I just had to find an excuse to use those great quotes from the Ardennes, absolutely haunting. People fairly criticize the trench warfare for being a meat grinder, but I think people all to often fail to comprehend the sheer slaughter that was open warfare in the days before tanks, effective forms of walking fire, and small unit tactics. When that French officer talked about thousands of bodies in the field, he meant it. Statistically, the battle of the Frontiers was as bloody as the war was ever going to get. Out of roughly 1.25 million men the French put into the field at the start of the month, 320-30,000 would be casualties within a month, with most of the fighting occurring in about 3 weeks from the start of the Battle of the Frontiers to the conclusion of the First Battle of the Marne. The Germans would suffer roughly 310,000 in the same period of time.

    To put that properly in perspective, the Battle of Verdun, which had roughly 299 days of heavy fighting, you had 350-380,000 French casualties to 330-350,000 German casualties over the course of the entire battle.

    John Keegan in The First World War describe a scene where passing French units were questioning a British unit concerning their preparation for the German advance on the Mons Canal by digging in. A British officer, a veteran of the Boer War, spoke up on the effects of mass numbers of men in the open charging Mauser rifles.

    Add the machine gun and faster firing artillery and the scene was slaughter on an industrial scale.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    The Battle of Mons was fought on August 23, 1914. This was when the British Expeditionary Force saw its first action, attempting to hold the east-west canal that connects Mons (Belgium, east) to Condé (France, west) against the German 1st army advancing from the north. The heavily outnumbered British repulsed the initial German attack, but couldn’t stop the Germans from crossing the canal by the end of the day. The British fought bravely, and two soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross.

    Also on August 23, German forces captured the city of Dinant in Belgium. In response to reported attacks of civilians on German soldiers (so-called “franc-tireurs”), the Germans executed more than 600 of the town’s inhabitants, nearly 10% of its population, in what became known as the Dinant massacre. Occupied Belgium was to suffer many more such atrocities in the years that followed.

    On this same day, Japan declared war on Germany. Japan had allied itself with Britain and intended to obtain the German colonies in the Far East. An ultimatum had been presented to the governor of Germany’s Kiautschou Bay concession on the Chinese mainland, summoning the Germans to surrender the colony to Japan. When no response came, Japan declared war. The Japanese would soon start offensive operations, and they would also capture the Carolines, Marianas and Marshall Islands from Germany in 1914. So if you see those islands as Japanese on the A&A Global 1940 map – that’s how they got them.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    Subsequent to the lost battles of Charleroi and Mons and their deteriorating position in Lorraine, on August 24, 1914, the French and British troops started to fall back in what would later be known as the “Great Retreat”. For a period that lasted over a month, the German army kept pushing forward relentlessly, and the Allies only managed to delay their advance. Despite occasional successes, it was only before Paris that the French and the British finally made their stance.

    In an attempt to help the French and British troops and hinder the German communication lines, the Belgian army advanced from their national redoubt at Antwerp and took control of the city of Mechelen that had seen heavy fighting during the preceding days.

    In the mean time, Austria-Hungary was not particularly successful against the Serbs - the original conflict that started the entire war didn’t go as expected. August 24 was the final day of the Battle of Cer, where the Austrians were soundly defeated. They could, however, bear the loss easier than the much smaller Serbia could afford the cost of victory. On a side note, this battle also saw the end of gentlemanly behavior in the skies: and Austro-Hungarian pilot took a shot at a Serbian pilot with his revolver. After they politely waved at each other, that is.


  • @Herr:

    Subsequent to the lost battles of Charleroi and Mons and their deteriorating position in Lorraine, on August 24, 1914, the French and British troops started to fall back in what would later be known as the “Great Retreat”.

    In 1915, a popular legend sprang up around this retreat: the story of the “Angels of Mons”, supernatural beings who allegedly appeared in the sky over the British troops and protected them as they fell back.  The story caught the imagination of the British public but, alas, turned out to be the military equivalent of an urban legend.  Its source was traced back to a short story published in late September 1914 by a Welsh author named Arthur Machen, in which the ghosts of the English bowmen who fought at Agincourt are called back from the beyond by a British soldier and destroy a large German force during the retreat from the Mons.


  • On August 24, 1914, Lt. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and soldier with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, was travelling in a troop train, which stopped in White River, Ontario.  There, he met a hunter who had shot a female black bear.  The bear had a cub, which was almost certain to die without its mother.  Colebourn offered the hunter $20 for the cub, whom he named Winnipeg Bear to commemorate the city where he had lived before the war. The name was soon shortened to Winnie.  Winnie accompanied Colebourn to England, where the cub played with Canadian soldiers during their off-hours in their encampment on the Salisbury Plains. Colebourn later donated Winnie to the London Zoo, where the bear inspired the creation of A.A. Milne’s famous children’s book character, Winnie the Pooh.

    Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnie-the-pooh-saga-turns-100-years-old-1.2745104

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    Thanks for the nice anecdotes, Mark!

    During the evening of August 25, 1914, there was some sort of incident at Leuven (Louvain), Belgium, then in German hands. Shots were fired, and while it’s unclear what exactly happened, the Germans reacted with an eruption of violence and destruction that would last for days, would take hundreds of lives and cause widespread destruction. On the night of the 25th, they set fire to the Lakenhal, which was the library of Leuven’s university. More than 300,000 books were lost, among them some 800 from the Middle Ages.

    Austria-Hungary enjoyed an initial success, defeating the Russians in the Battle of Krasnik.

    Japan called upon Austria-Hungary to retreat its cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth (named after the famous empress “Sisi”, aka “Sissi” when the films were made in the 1950’s) from Tsingtao. The Japanese request was refused, and Japan now also declared war on Austria-Hungary.


  • Sorry lads, was away for a few days. Thanks for keeping it alive!

    Anyway, August 26th

    Western Front-The Great Retreat continues, even as the French armies on the frontiers continue to stand off repeated and fierce attacks by German armies on the frontier.

    The Battle of Le Cateau takes places when 2 divisions of the BEF under General Horace Smith-Dorrien make a stand at a small French village in order to halt the fast approaching German forces of the German general Von Kluck. At first the Germans thought it was a simple rearguard action instead of a defiant stand. The initial German troops attacked with no real organization, and were decimated by British artillery. By midday however the Germans realized what they were up against and put their superior numbers into full play, and by late afternoon the British flanks were broken. At the last moment a French cavalry division arrived to screen the British retreat, which was carried out in a highly organized way. The  Germans had lost 5,000 men, but inflicted over 7,000 casualties on the British. Nevertheless, the Germans were given pause and forced to reorganize. This allowed the British 5 days free of harassment as they continued to retreat (out of the country, or so believed it’s commander John French).

    Eastern Front-

    The great Battle of Tannenberg begins. Since the 23rd, Samsonvo’s 2nd Army had been pushing the German XX Corps of the 8th army back. Despite their success, the Russians had by this point in time effectively run out of food, ammunition was scare, and communication completely broken down, forcing the Russians to communicate over open airwaves, allowing the Germans to effectively map their movements. Pushed on by theater commander Zhilinsky despite the fact that the 1st Army was in no position to cover his flanks, Samsonvo nudged his men forward…right into a German trap.

    However, it was a trap that almost never sprung. Ludendorff and Hindenburg had arrived hours before, were poorly briefed on the situation, and to be honest most of the credit of the battle belongs with Max Hoffmann, who had given the exact orders of attack that Ludendorff eventually agreed to, setting the 8th army into motion for the attack before the famed duo even arrived at the front.

    Once again, equal praise must be given to German general, Hermann von François, of the XVII corp which had been so instrumental to German operations in East Prussia up until this point, for having the gigantic balls necessary to tell Ludendorff to take a long walk off a short pier, that he was waiting for his heavy artillery to arrive before doing anything. This proved the correct decision, when the XVII corps was able to catch the Russian VI Corps in disordered marching position and drive it back to the border. On the Russian right, the German XX corps continued to block the movement of the Russian forces.

    The Russian right flank was now open. Samsonvo recognized this, and ordered the Russian I corps to hold the line against the advancing XVII corps.

    Battle of Galicia-The real action on the Eastern Front beings, as the Hapsburg armies advance from the city of Lemburg to attack Russian forces, even though they were heavily outnumbered, with over half the army still facing the Serbians. The battle of Komarow as it would come to be called, on paper was a stunning Hapsburg success, crashing into the flank of the Russian 5th Army, taking 20,000 prisoners, and seeming to push the Russian back and poise the Hapsburg armies for a clean push into Poland. But at the end of the battle, the Hapsburg flank was left wide open, inviting disaster.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    August 27, 1914, saw a particularly heroic stand of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers in the Battle of Etreux. About 800 British soldiers were attacked and surrounded by a German force outnumbering them six to one. The British kept fighting until they had lost three quarters of their strength, and the 200 survivors only surrendered by nightfall as they ran out of ammunition. Their bravery bought the British Expeditionary Force precious time that they needed to escape from the Germans, who had been in full pursuit.
    A detailed and illustrated account of this dramatic battle can be found here: http://www.britishbattles.com/firstww/battle-of-etreux.htm

    The Imperial Japanese Navy started their blockade of German-held Tsingtao on the Chinese mainland.

    In Africa, the German colony of Togoland had capitulated on the 26th, but Kamerun, EastAfrica and Southwest Africa were holding on for now, and would do so for years to come.


  • Belated August 26th: The German Battlecruiser SMS Madeburg (sister ship to the game Breslau. While patrolling the Estonian coastline, she ran aground and was unable to be dislodged. While her crew was evacuating, two Russian cruisers (the Pallada and the Bogatyr) sailed out and attacked the German ship. 15 Germans were killed, the ship was taken, and most importantly the Russians laid claim to 3 copies of German naval codes, one of which they would pass onto the UK. This would allow the UK to ambush several German ships over the course of the war, most notably in the Battle of Jutland.

    August 27th-

    Eastern Front

    Battle of Tannenberg-As the XV and XIII corps of the Russian Army pushed back German units forming in their front, the Francois’s XVII German corps managed to shatter the Russian I corps through their massive artillery superiority, thus putting itself into the Russian rear. Due to an abysmal communications situation, Samsonvo didn’t find out about the shattering of the I corps until late in the day, when it was far to late to send proper reinforcements.

    Galicia-On the 26th, three corps of the Hapsburg III army advanced towards Tarnopol near the border. By the end of the day - and into the 27th- these three Hapsburg corps blundered into no less than eight Russian corps! The Russian 8th and 3rd Armies (Under command of Brusilov and Nikolai Ruzsky respectively) smashed into the outnumbered and outgunned Hapsburg’s advancing into open ground. By the 27th, the Hapsburg’s were in full retreat.

    Luckily for them the Russian had to reorganize their forces, but due to massive Russian air superiority, the Russians were able to track the Hapsburg’s every step
    of the way.

    August 28-
    Naval Front- The Battle of Heligoland Bight. The first general naval battle involving large fleet units (single ship actions had been occurring all over the world since the war started). A large fleet of British Battlecruisers, light cruisers and destroyers ambushed a German raiding fleet. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, 714 Germans died and 5 ships sunk, to a mere 35 killed and one ship lightly damaged on the British side.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    On August 29, with the French Army and the BEF still in full retreat before the advancing Germans, the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre ordered general Lanrezac of the fifth army to counterattack towards the city of St Quentin, which had already been captured by the Germans and was to the west of the French position at the time. The fifth army had just suffered defeat at Charleroi, and it took Joffre a personal visit to convince Lanzreac. Unfortunately for the French, their plans fell into German hands, and they were pushed back across the Oise river, which runs between St Quentin and the town of Guise. The French were not wholly unsuccessful though, because hey did capture Guise and cause another much-needed delay to the general German advance.
    Who actually won this battle, remains a matter of dispute even today. The German wikipedia lists it as “Schlacht bei St. Quentin”, and the result is “deutscher Sieg” (German victory); the French version mentions the “Bataille de Guise” and a “Victoire tactique et strategique francaise” (French tactical and strategic victory).

    No such uncertainty on the eastern front, where the multi-day engagement raged that has been somewhat dubiously named the “Battle of Tannenberg” (the fighting never actually reached Tannenberg and was named after that town at the request of the victorious German commander Paul von Hindenburg, possibly to eradicate the memory of a German defeat against the Polish there in 1410). August 29 was a day of major disaster for the Russian second army, the main body of which was surrounded by German forces near Neidenburg. Relentless artillery fire killed many Russians, and the Russian first army, further to the north, never came to the rescue. While lack of clarity and lack of information definitely played a role in the Russian failure here, the personal animosity between the generals Rennenkampf of the first army and Samsonov of the second army certainly didn’t help either.

    An expeditionary force from New Zealand occupied German Samoa without a fight.

    The Women’s Defense Relief Corps was founded in Britain, for both civil and military aims.


  • The German Far East Cruiser force , under Admiral Graf Spee, unite in the German Caroline Islands around this date. This force consists of two armored and three light cruisers.

    Von Spee considered recapturing German Samoa, but decides its importance in the War limited.


  • I have always thought the German Fleet in WWI should have attempted to get warships out in the Atlantic for commerce raiding. How would a German Battlecruisers team have done? The Allies would get forced to place many units able to match a Battlecruisers in speed and firepower in the Atlantic. This could have upset the British numerical advantage allowing for a more favorable Jutland style battle for Germany.


  • @ABWorsham:

    I have always thought the German Fleet in WWI should have attempted to get warships out in the Atlantic for commerce raiding. How would a German Battlecruisers team have done? The Allies would get forced to place many units able to match a Battlecruisers in speed and firepower in the Atlantic. This could have upset the British numerical advantage allowing for a more favorable Jutland style battle for Germany.

    Germany’s battlecruisers were unsuited for commerce raiding in the Atlantic for several reasons.  First, like all German capital ships, they had very poor crew accommodations.  Intended only for short excursions into the North Sea, their living space had been pared down to a minimum (as a design trade-off for features that were considered more useful) and their crews normally lived in barracks ashore.  This contrasted with the British design philosophy of providing decent (or at least adequate) crew accommodations, since Royal Navy ships had world-wide responsibilities and thus could be away from their home ports for extended periods.

    Second, all of Germany’s battlecruisers had coal-fired engines.  For long-range commerce raiders which need regular support by a network of supply ships, coal is very problematic.  It’s extremely time-consuming and labour-intensive (and messy) to load aboard a ship even when it’s just sitting in a port, so re-coaling a ship at sea – especially in the often-turbulent Atlantic – would have been even more difficult and perhaps even impossible.  To make matters worse, coal delivers less thermal energy than oil, so coal-fired ships need more frequent refuelleing than oil-fired ships.

    There’s also the problem of how the required German supply ships themselves could have kept operating for long in an Atlantic Ocean controlled by the RN and to a lesser extent by the French and American fleets.  Britain maintained a blockade of the North Sea throughout the war (taking advantage of the fact that the North Sea can only be entered or existed via a small number of passages) – so it would have been difficult for the supply ships to return to Germany for restocking, and probably impossible for them to obtain coal and other supplies in foreign ports (most coal sources being, I think, on the Allied side).


  • Great information, thank you for the information.

    Based on this information Germany best option for raiding would have been the light cruisers or converted merchant ships such as Wolf.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    I’ve been lagging quite a bit…. 2014 took precedence over 1914 this week.

    August 30 saw the conclusion of the Battle of Tannenberg, the destruction of Russia’s second army at the hands of the German eight army, commanded by the famous generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Russian losses were staggering and exceeded German losses by a factor of more thatn 10. The Russian commander Samsonow wouldn’t face the disaster and committed suicide on this day. The Germans found his body, which was returned to his widow a few years later.
    Around the same time, Austria-Hungary won the Battle of Komarow, though in a far less decisive way - and it was offset by a defeat on the Gnila Lipa, a river now in the Ukraine. Russia took the city of Lemberg, the capital of Galicia, on September 3.

    In the west, the French and British armies finally stopped the German advance on the outskirts of Paris, with the massive First Battle of the Marne starting on September 6. The Germans, encouraged by the success of their campaign so far, planned to encircle Paris with their first army and pressed towards the southeast, but that maneuver exposed their right flank to an Allied counterattack.
    The French fifth and sixth armies and the British Expeditionary Force attempted to exploit a gap that had formed between the German first army and the second army that had remained further to the north. The French government wasn’t optimistic about the outcome however, and fled to Bordeaux. To illustrate the precariousness of the Allied position, the French sixth army had to be reinforced by driving 6,000 reservists to the front in Paris taxis.

    On September 2, Japanese forces landed in China to begin the siege of Germany’s Tsingtao colony.

    In late August - early September, German colonial troops repulsed a British attack in northern Cameroon, winning a battle at Garoua.

    On September 5, HMS Pathfinder was the first ever ship to be sunk by a self-propelled torpedo fired from a submarine. Submarines sank ships before, and so did self-propelled torpedoes, but the
    combination of the two saw its debut that day - to be repeated many times after. The event also carried the message across that there was no safety in the British home waters, because it happened in the Firth of Forth.

    A curious and rather successful German enterprise began during this period: the passenger lines Kronprinz Wilhelm had been converted to an auxiliary cruiser, and captured 15 allied ships off the coast of South America during the months that followed. Her typical course of action was to use her superior weapons and speed to compel the enemy ship to stop and board it. If it was of any prospective military value, the crew would be captured and the ship sunk - otherwise, the Germans politely wished them a pleasant journey.


  • @Herr:

    In the west, the French and British armies finally stopped the German advance on the outskirts of Paris, with the massive First Battle of the Marne starting on September 6. The Germans, encouraged by the success of their campaign so far, planned to encircle Paris with their first army and pressed towards the southeast, but that maneuver exposed their right flank to an Allied counterattack.  The French fifth and sixth armies and the British Expeditionary Force attempted to exploit a gap that had formed between the German first army and the second army that had remained further to the north.

    Perhaps I’m not recalling the circumstances of the Battle of the Marne correctly, but I was under the impression that it came about because the Germans strayed from their plan to encircle Paris. The right wing of the German Army was originally supposed to pass to the west of Paris as it headed southward, thus enveloping the city.  The German commanders, however, went “off script” and instead swung their entire force around so that it passed east of Paris in an attempt to trap and destroy the French Army; in other words, rather than trying to envelop Paris, they tried to envelop the enemy’s main force.  Unfortunately for the Germans, this exposed their own flank to a potential counter-attack from the west, which (as you described in detail above) is precisely what subsequently happened.

  • 2024 2023 '22 '21 '20 '19 '18 '17

    Enveloping Paris from the west as well was indeed a part of the original Schlieffen plan, but that plan hadn’t been quite as successful as the Germans had hoped it would be. Which was not too surprising, because they had committed fewer troops than originally intended by Von Schlieffen, and the reason for that was, that they also needed to fight Russia.
    As a result, when the Battle of the Marne started, the front line ran north-south from Ypres in Belgium to a point some 50 to 60 miles north of Paris, and from there, mostly east-to-southeast towards the Franco-German border. Sending an army westward and then south to arrive west of Paris, would have been a high risk operation, exposing that army to counterattacks on both flanks. In the original Schlieffen plan, a much larger area to the north would have been overrun, and the encirclement of Paris would have involved forces arriving from that direction.

    So while I agree that the German High Command probably planned and hoped to win the war that way when it started, I’m not sure that encircling Paris from the west was still their intent in early September. Accounts of the situation and events and especially of the various plans are not always consistent, and I may have misinterpreted some of them, but it seems that the German idea was to break the French lines east of Paris, and thus separate the French armies in the east of the country from the capital, which would then be captured. The actual encirclement would only have been partial.

    Why exactly that plan went wrong, can probably be attributed to various courses. The Germans may have underestimated the strength of the Paris garrison, or may have been misinformed of the whereabouts or even the existence of the French Sixth Army, that had just been formed. This account by Von Kluck, the commander of the first German Army, casts blame on Von Bulow’s Second Army for not protecting the right flank of the advance, and it’s illustrative of the overall difficulty in coordination and communications. Of course, it was written by a man who had to defend himself for the failure of the entire operation. Another factor may have been that troops had recently been transferred to the eastern front, because the Russian threat seemed bigger than it turned out to be - the Germans didn’t know beforehand that they would be as successful as they were at Tannenberg.

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