By John Sheen

The river Aisne featured prominently in August 1914 through the Retreat from Mons and in September was once the scene of sour scuffling with while the BEF re-crossed it of their unsuccessful try and dislodge the German military entrenched alongside the Northern Crest.The scuffling with used to be highly high priced to the BEF, which had already fought 3 significant engagements and marched over two hundred miles in a month. the 3 British Corps misplaced over seven hundred officials and a few 15,000 males. Little ask yourself one officer wrote that he felt he used to be within the corporation of ghosts.Historian Jerry Murland locations the Aisne battles of their context, either from the BEF and German viewpoints.

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Extra resources for Battle on the Aisne 1914 The BEF and the Birth of the Western Front

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It was a retirement which eventually saw the BEF reach a position south of the River Marne and drew attention to Sir John’s shortcomings as a commander-in-chief. In fairness to Sir John and his commanders, they were faced with a huge task in August 1914, a task which placed a massive burden of responsibility on men who had very little experience of manoeuvring such large masses of troops over extended periods of time. Even so, at Le Cateau, Horace Smith-Dorrien defied an order from GHQ to continue the retreat of II Corps and stood his ground with three divisions along the line of the Le Cateau-Cambrai road.

Smith-Dorrien’s II Corps lined the canal between Mons and Condé facing north while Haig’s I Corps was posted along the Beaumont–Mons road facing northeast. To the west Allenby’s cavalry and units of 19 Brigade guarded the canal crossings as far as Condé. The battle along the canal at Mons on 23 August was the BEF’s first clash with the German First Army commanded by General Alexander von Kluck. The outcome was inevitable, outnumbered and out-manoeuvred and with General Charles Lanrezac’s French Fifth Army already retiring on his right flank, Sir John French had little recourse but to retire.

3 As the regiment moved north towards Coulommiers they were completely unaware that Allied forces were now embroiled in the Battle of the Marne and that the wider strategic plan would conclude with the German retreat to the heights of the Chemin des Dames which ran along the northern edge of the Aisne River valley. The First Battle of the Marne was fought between 5 and 11 September 1914. 4 Why? Because the Marne was the final stroke which brought the German operational strategy – masterminded in 1905 by the Chief of the German General Staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen – to an end and changed the course of European history.

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