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The First Battle of the Marne

The History and Legacy of the First Major Allied Victory in World War I
Narrated by: Jim D Johnston
Length: 1 hr and 45 mins

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Publisher's Summary

"So we come to the Marne. This will ever remain the Mystery Battle of all time. We can see more clearly across the mists of time how Hannibal conquered at Cannea, than why Joffre won at the Marne. No great acquisition of strength to either side - except that usually invaders outrun their supplies and defenders fall back upon their reserves - important, but not decisive. Not much real fighting, comparatively few casualties, no decisive episode in any part of the immense field; fifty explanations, all well documented, five hundred volumes of narrative and comment - but the mystery remains." (Winston Churchill)

The enduring image of World War I is of men stuck in muddy trenches, and of vast armies deadlocked in a fight neither could win. It was a war of barbed wire, poison gas, and horrific losses as officers led their troops on mass charges across No Man’s Land and into a hail of bullets. While these impressions are all too true, they hide the fact that trench warfare was dynamic and constantly evolving throughout the war as all armies struggled to find a way to break through the opposing lines.

Needless to say, the First World War came at an unfortunate time for those who would fight in it. The infamous trench lines soon snaked across the French and Belgian countryside, creating an essentially futile static slaughterhouse whose sinister memory remains to this day.

However, if trench warfare was an inevitability during the war, it is only because the events leading up to the First Battle of the Marne were quite different. The armies at the beginning of the war moved quickly through the land, but the First Battle of the Marne devolved into a bloody pitched battle that led to the construction of trenches after the Germans retreated, blocked in their pursuit of Paris. When the aftermath disintegrated into a war between trenches, some Germans thought they had the upper hand since they were occupying French territory, but with fewer soldiers than the combined Allied nations and fewer resources and supplies, it was possibly only a matter of time before they were ultimately defeated. The commander of the German armies, General Helmuth von Moltke, allegedly said to Kaiser Wilhelm II immediately after the First Battle of the Marne, "Your Majesty, we have lost the war." Winston Churchill himself would later reference that anecdote, writing, “Whether General von Moltke actually said to the Emperor, ‘Majesty, we have lost the war,’ we do not know. We know anyhow that with a prescience greater in political than in military affairs, he wrote to his wife on the night of the 9th, ‘Things have not gone well. The fighting east of Paris has not gone in our favour, and we shall have to pay for the damage we have done.’"

The First Battle of the Marne analyzes one of the Great War’s most important conflicts, and how it brought about trench warfare.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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