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View series: The first World War, 1914-1918

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The Battle of the Marne

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The first World War, 1914-1918.

On 2 September, faced with the advance of the German armies, the French government first hesitated about declaring Paris an open city and then left for Bordeaux.

However, the German right wing decided to sidestep Paris, as its supply lines were stretched to the limit and diverted its advance towards the southeast.

When this movement is detected by French reconnaissance aircraft, Gallieni, recently appointed to defend the capital, ordered General Maunoury’s 6th Army to attack the flank of the German 1st Army commanded by Von Kluck.

This action brought the German general’s advance to a halt and created a breach in the German positions.

Joffre then gives the order to suspend the retreat and engage in a counter‑offensive. The French 5th Army and the British Expeditionary Corps rushed into the breach between the armies of Von Kluck and Von Bülow.

Von Bulow then halted his troops and, fearing encirclement by the French and British forces, ordered a withdrawal towards the northeast. Von Kluck’s retreat towards the north, in order to avoid being encircled in turn, widened the breach between the German armies, thus ensured their defeat.

The French troops, which had suffered heavy casualties since the beginning of the hostilities, are unable to capitalize on their advantage. This allowed the German armies to conduct an orderly withdrawal, and stabilized the front on the Aisne.