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Lecture 6

387 - Week 6 – Lecture 1 - War.docx

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McGill University
HIST 387
Peter Hoffmann

Week 6 – Lecture 1 History 387 – the First World War War! Belgians constructed major fortresses at Liege, Namur (on the Meuse) and ____ = built to withstand what had been the strongest artillery but theAustrian Skoda works were building 305mm howitzers = MASSIVE ­ Krupp then built 420mm howitzers that needed rail transport – preferably rail spur with concrete bedding though 2 were transportable by 1914 o Germans also borrowed Skoda howitzers from Austrians = well equipped for the attack upon Liege = General Von Emmich was given 48 hours to take the fortress and he had a 60,000 men task force and he had 305mm howitzers along with 420mm Krupp ones ­ entered Belgium on 4 August and bombardment of the fortress began on the 5 th th ­ German infantry attacked and was cut down by the defenders = heavy losses  5 August – no success ­ 6 August = Ludendorff as liaison between Emmich and 2 Army  went into the confusion, took command and ordered a field howitzer at the point of assault which was 105mm or 155mm shells = succeeded in penetrating the ring of fortresses around the city and citadel o bluffed his way into the city, took position of the city and remaining bridges o 305mm and 420mm were then used for the remaining fortresses although that took longer the French – planned to advance into Lorraine and then to meet any German advance in Belgium = General Josef Joffre – CiC of French forces – commanded 4 Armies for the attack onA-L and then northward onto the flank of the German attack either through theArdennes or Belgium or both = Plan 17: good plan as long as the German armies were where Joffre thought they would be and he actually miscalculated slightly 14 August = main French attack commenced: 20 August = furthest part of the French attack  nearly reached Strasbourg on the Rhine though they did not actually ever reach the Rhine in Alsace 26 August – the German forces had advanced via counterattacks ­ frontier battles – battles of frontiers and on borders th ­ North – Liege then Namur by 25 August = Battles of Mons and Charleroi with the BEF against German forces  the British were defeated but NOT pursued  they could have destroyed the BEF and saved themselves much trouble at the Marne later on… th th th th ­ 4 , 6 and 7 German armies were further south than Belgium (Crown Prince was with the 5 Army and Prince of Bavaria had the 6 Army, Heyliggen whom had been war minister of Prussia had the 7 Army just north of th Switzerland) o most southern fortress of the French = Belfort French main attack – Lorraine and Alsace th th rd German 6 and 7 Armies fall back for 4 days and then counterattacked, driving the French back until the 23 August  then the French front stabilised South of theArdennes, near Montmedy and Long(?)  French forces broke following the defeat of Charloix and Mons 22 -23 nd rd August th th Battle of the Marne = began on 5 September  German forces crossed the Marne on the 4 September as the British and French retreating to Paris ­ 5 September = EC forces counterattacked esp. on the extreme right wing ▯ 30 French and British divisions faced 20 German divisions ▯ Germans withdrew back across the Marne ­ Namur fortress  south of this was theArdennes forest = st nd ­ Kluck = 1 Army; Bulow = 2 Army Corps On the way = atrocities in Louvain/Leuven = occupied by German forces: in the war 1870-1 the French employed a great number of irregular soldiers whom attacked German and Prussian forces from ambushes an houses and it was really quite a plague for the German forces  made a lot of trouble for them = responded by executing partisans/irregulars whom they caught ­ when they invaded Belgium there was fear of the same thing happening ▯ in fact, many Belgians that were not in the Belgian army but wanted to defend their country in civilian clothes w. rifles w/o leadership or officers, attacked the German forces ▯ much nervousness on the part of the Germans o when a troop of Germans on the far side of the town returned from some exercises and there was a search for bars  troops further inside the town thought that there was a shootout or some sort of combat = they began to enter houses (hearing shots – not sure if there was actually some!)  where rifles were found, people were killed  snowballed until a total of about 5000 were killed in Belgium during the war as irregulars  some buildings were set fire to  the university library was destroyed and thus several medieval and original manuscripts from the dawn of printing with movable type/double sided pages German atrocities in Belgium are talked about still  reports circulating at the time are grossly exaggerated BUT there were real atrocities and outrages = clear idea of what is meant when hearing about atrocities ­ 30 French and British divisions vs. 20 German ones on the Marne o Kluck withdrew North across the Marne and turned to face West against others forces of the BEF and CONTRARY to orders st nd  Result = 50km gap between the 1 and 2 Army  not closed though shielded by cavalry • British forces advanced here as they crossed the Marne northward = separated Kluck and Bulow’s armies o Both German commanders were forced to retreat further = German front did eventually stabilise though and it was extended North towards the North Sea General von Manstein at the beginning of WW2 = aware of WW1  concluded that what the British did to the Germans, was what the Germans had to do to the British and French = had to separate them! ­ the sickle cut lin▯instead of coming from the northeast and going southwest, he would come from the east and go northwest leading to Dunkirk! o Speed as well as strategy = tanks, armoured divisions which the French failed to develop despite of the advice of Charles De Gaulle whom wanted to concentrate tank forces = instead they were scattered thus rendering them largely ineffective and thus the Germans broke through to the Channel German advance  from the Rhine through Luxembourg, Belgium and into France = broke through theArdennes  German advance in the South along the Rhine was much slower sicne the fortress line was essentially holding the advance ­ the German right-wing advanced further thus causing the Marne o planned to beat French attack and counter-attacks but there was no plan for afterwards  dependent also on the speed of the advance also… DEVELOPMENT on the western front  until 1917, the Hindenburg Line remained in the hands of the Germans ­ furthest
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