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7-03-2015, 06:27

The Long Retreat

Thus, from 24 August to 5 September, the Allied armies retreated. Along the way, the British engaged the enemy at Lc Gateau, and the French at Guise-Saint Quentin. Yet Joffre’s stolid optimism might have been misplaced, if not for the fact that the German supreme commander, .Moltke, received exaggerated reports of German successes on every battlefront. Moltke became overconfident; indeed, he deluded himself that final victory was within his grasp. Thus he drastically reduced the strength of the German right wing. Although he could therefore no longer make an encircling mo ement west of Paris, in the euphoria of his mood, this hardly mattered. On 25 August, he decided to send four western divisions to the eastern front. These successive weakenings of the German western position had a decisive influence on the outeome of the Battle of the -Marne some twelve days later.

.t the end of August, Moltke felt ready to tr to envelop the French by means of Grown Prince Rupprecht's army on the left and those of Biilow and Kluck on the right. Now fate took an ironic hand. The German armies had adsanced so swiftly that their supplies had failed to keep pace. The armies were too big to live off the land, and the troops, already exhausted from ineessant fighting and marches, faeed hunger as well. Sir Basil Liddell Hart observed that now ‘so mueh grit had worked into the German maehine that a slight jar would suffice to cause its breakdown’. This jar was to be administered at the. Marne.

Suddenly, .Moltke became concerned at reports of ominous Freneh troop movements. At the same time, and in the absence of adecpiate communit a-tions, Kluck interpreted the spirit of his orders in the way he thought best, and he advanced ac ross the. Marne. Prompted by General Gallitmi, the military genernor of Paris, Joffre moved to take advantage of this overreaching movement. I he French. Sixth.my under. Maunoury was sent against Kluck’s right, while the BFF and the Fifth. Army, ncjw eommanded by Franchei d'l'.sperey, attacked in the north.

By 5 .September, when it was alreach too late, Kluck realized that German suecesses had been exaggerated, and that the. Allies were reeuperat-ing more quickly than he had dreamed possible. Meanwhile Maunoury eontinued to advance, and when he encountered German forces under Gronau on a line extending from A'iney to the .Marne, the Battle of the Ourccj ensued. 'Phis fierce display of fighting marked the first engagement in the Battle of the Marne. The results w ere ineonclusive, since the German advance by day was eountered by their withdrawal from exposed [jositions by night. However, Cruttw’ell assesses the significance of the Oureq as being that ‘the sting. . . had been partially drawn by the vigorous and unexpected initiatis e’ of the. Allies.