The Battle of the Marne, 1914

7 – 10 September 1914: the Battle of the Marne. The British Expeditionary Force plays a small part in this immense, decisive battle that halts the German advance into France. The French and the BEF now begin to advance northwards in pursuit of a German retreat.

Elements of the British Expeditionary Force which took part in this battle:

Cavalry Division
Gough’s Command: 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades
1 Corps: (Haig): 1st and 2nd Divisions
II Corps: (Smith-Dorrien): 3rd and 5th Divisions
III Corps: (Pulteney): 4th Division and 19th Infantry Brigade

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

By 5 September 1914 the continuing retreat of the British Expeditionary Force and its effective disengagement from the pursuing Germans had taken it across the River Marne and well to the south east of Paris. At the same time, French Commander-in-Chief Joffre had taken steps to form a new Sixth Army and positioned it north of the Marne, from where it could strike into the flank of the Germans. The map above shows the movements on 6 September, as the (red) British Divisions turned about and began to move northwards after two weeks of continuous southward retreat; the French Sixth Army (blue) is already engaging the Germans (green), who are now having to move units back across the Marne to counter the French threat. To the east of the British, the French Fifth and Ninth Armies (not shown on this map) also began to engage the enemy. The very fact of doing so was a strategic, decisive victory in that it had halted the initial German attack on France and had seized the initiative.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

On 7 September 1914 the French attacks continue and the British Expeditionary Force advances northwards, into what amounts as a gap. Forward units cross the Grand Morin.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

8 September 1914 sees the northward movement continue. The BEF crosses the Petit Morin and is now approaching the River Marne once again.

18-pounder field guns, Royal Field Artillery, come into action at Signy-Signets during the Battle of the Marne, 8 September 1914. On the left of the photograph are soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) of 19th Infantry Brigade. Imperial War Museum image Q51488

18-pounder field guns, Royal Field Artillery, come into action at Signy-Signets during the Battle of the Marne, 8 September 1914. On the left of the photograph are soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) of 19th Infantry Brigade. Imperial War Museum image Q51488

 

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

Extract from a map contained in the British Official History of Military Operations, France and Flanders, 1914 volume I. Crown copyright.

On 9 September 1914 the British force fights its way across the Marne, against stiffening German resistance. The advance continues for several more days but the Battle of the Marne has been won.

German prisoners of war captured by the British at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Press photograph sourced from http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6931809g with thanks

German prisoners of war captured by the British at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Press photograph sourced from http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6931809g with thanks

Troops of 'D'’ Company, 1st Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) crossing a pontoon bridge over the Marne at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, 10 September 1914. Imperial War Museum image Q51493

Troops of ‘D’’ Company, 1st Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) crossing a pontoon bridge over the Marne at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, 10 September 1914. Imperial War Museum image Q51493

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Battles of the Western Front in France and Flanders