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First World War: 25th August 1914

After the disastrous battles of Morhange, Sarrebourg and the retreats in this last half of the first month of the war, the II French Army is asked to defensively deployed in what is called the ” Trouée de Charmes “, a large territory in the Meurthe-et-Moselle, not far from the city of Nancy. The Trouée is a large territory empty of any fortifications.

The German high-command had to break the II French Army to continue its advance and avoid fortresses like Verdun. This operation is given to the Crowned Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, victorious of the combats of Morhange. French general de Castelneau, who is told he has the fate of France in his hand musts make sure that the German army does not break his line, otherwise the French armies would be flanked and their backs be vulnerable.

On the 24th of August, the Crowned Prince launched his entire forces against the French lines, making the fatal mistake of uncovering his flanks. De Castelneau saw his enemy’s maneuver as a weak spot and send men on the Germans’ flanks. At the end of the 24th, the Crowned Prince is stuck and despite having won territory in the center of the battlefield, his flanks are totally gone and are now the possessions of the French.

Both generals took advantage of the night to fortify their defenses and positions. French artillery inflicted heavy casualties to the German army and in the morning of the 25th, various engagements along the front-lines happened resulting in the capture of several villages and woods. The German moral was low this day, at first they were almost sure of the victory ( considering the state of the French army after its previous defeats ). The counter-offensive of de Castelneau was a success, reinforcing the idea of the offensive doctrine ( a major issue in French high-command’s plans ) and the German soldiers are forced to give up previously won territories.

On the morrow, the 26th, de Castelneau started his last offensive, pushing back the German armies after heavy engagements. The Crowned Prince’s army did not managed to pierce the trouée, and the II French Army protected Paris and other fronts against a probable turning point in the German advance. This battle, while costly in lives for both sides, had a major impact on the German moral. The soldiers had to run away in front of the French resistance and the prowess of the French artillery had been a shock to many. However, this battle proved to be extremely tiring for the French soldiers and this success was very little compared to what was to tome.

 

 

By Alister

Studying at the University of Besaçon, Burgundy Franche-Comté, France