Marne, Battle of the 1914

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Marne, Battle of the (1914)


a major battle on the Marne River from September 5 to 12 between the Anglo-French and German forces during World War I (1914-18).

After the Allies’ failure in the 1914 battles of the frontier and the collapse of their efforts in late August to stop the advance of the right wing of the German armies in the upper reaches of the Somme and Oise rivers, the Anglo-French troops withdrew behind the Marne River to the east of Paris, near which the newly formed Sixth Army of General M. Maunoury was assembling. During the stubborn fighting against the withdrawing enemy and the subsequent pursuit, the German First and Second armies were forced on August 30-31 to deviate from their original direction of advance and found themselves east, not west, of Paris.

On September 4 the French commander in chief General J. Joffre issued a directive to deliver the main strike against the right wing of the German armies with troops of the British Army and the French Fifth and Sixth armies. The German high command (chief of staff, General H. von Moltke) on September 4 directed the establishment of a defense with the forces of the First and Second armies to repulse strikes from the west (from Paris) and the continuation of the advance to the south and southeast with the forces of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies. On September 3, however, the German First Army crossed the Marne, forcing the German Second Army to the east, and just one corps was left between the Marne and the Oise at the mouth of the Ourcq River. By early September the ratio of forces on the front from Paris to Verdun changed in favor of the Allies (56 infantry divisions and ten cavalry divisions, which totaled 1,082,000 men, 2,816 light guns, and 184 heavy guns, against the Germans’ 44 infantry divisions and seven cavalry divisions, which amounted to 900,000 men, 2,928 light guns, and 436 heavy guns). In the western area, moreover, the Allies’ superiority was almost two to one, because the French had reinforced their left flank while on August 26 the Germans had taken two corps from the Second and Third armies for transfer to East Prussia to stop the advance of the Russian armies.

On September 5 fighting began on the Ourcq River between the forward units of the French Sixth Army and a German corps, and on September 6 the Anglo-French forces went over to the counteroffensive along the entire front to Verdun. Between September 6 and 8, General A. von Kluck was forced to move all his forces gradually from the Marne to the Ourcq River to repulse the attack by the French. As a result, a breach of 35-40 km formed between the German First and Second armies, and the French Fifth Army and British Army moved slowly into the exposed area. The German high command had lost control of the movement of its troops. The unfavorable situation that had taken shape on the front of the German Second Army, which was threatened with envelopment, forced General K. von Billow, its commander, to draw the right flank of his army back on September 9. Despite the progress made by the German First, Third, and Fourth armies on September 9, this led to a withdrawal, first by the First Army and then by the other German armies; on September 10 the German high command sanctioned this. By September 12 the German forces had withdrawn across the Aisne to a line east of Reims. On September 15 in conformance with a directive by Joffre the advance by the Anglo-French forces was stopped.

The defeat of the German forces on the Marne led to the failure of the German strategic plan, which counted on crushing the enemy quickly on the Western Front.


Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914-1918 gg., vol. 1. Moscow, 1938.
Galaktionov, M. Marnskoe srazhenie. Moscow, 1938.
Kolenkovskii, A. K. Manevrennyi period pervoi mirovoi imperialisticheskoi winy 1914 g. Moscow, 1940.
Novitskii, V. F. Mirovaia voina 1914-1918gg., vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1938.
Les Armées françaises dans la grande guerre, vol. 1, parts 1-2. Paris, 1922-25.
Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vols. 3-4. Berlin, 1926.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.