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Unit History: Royal Scots Fusiliers

Royal Scots Fusiliers The Royal Scots Fusiliers history dates back to 1678 when it was raised by Charles Erskine, de jure 5th Earl of Mar (de jure indicates the earldom fell into dispute with the crown after Alexander Stewart forcibly captured and married Isabel Douglas, the Countess of Mar in 1404). As was the tradition at the time the Regiment was named after its colonel as ‘The Earl of Mar's Regiment’ and nicknamed ‘the Duke O'Mars Greybreeks’.

The Regiment saw its first action in 1679 at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge when it helped to put down the Covenanter Rebellion which formed following the restoration of King Charles II. Presbyterian ministers who refused to accept the rule of bishops were ejected from their parishes by the crown and took up arms in rebellion.

Charles II died suddenly in 1685 and was succeeded by his unpopular brother James II who was quickly plunged into suppressing mounting discontent, during the Monmouth rebellion of 1685. James Scott the 1st Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II and the King’s nephew) unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the unpopular King. The Regiment was once again in action on home soil during this time, suppressing a force raised by the Earl of Argyle in Scotland to support James Scott’s claim to the throne.

In 1686 the Regiment was armed with the ‘Fusil’ muskets, the most modern weapon of the day, instead of matchlock muskets becoming ‘The Scots Fusiliers Regiment of Foot’ and brought into the English Army in 1689. The Regiment went on to serve during the War of the Spanish Succession (1704-1714) fighting at the Battles of Schellenberg, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet and at the great Siege of Lille. The Regiment was granted the Royal title in 1712 to become ‘The Royal Scots Fusiliers Regiment’.

The Regiment went on to serve during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) fighting at the Battles of Dettingen, Fontenoy and Val. The Regiment was once again involved in action on the home front in 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie (the grandson of James II) attempted to regain the lost crown to the Stuart family by raising the Scottish clans into rebellion and fought at the Battle of Culloden.

In 1750 the Regimental namely system was simplified with each assigned a ranked number, therefore the Regiment became The 21st (Royal North British) Fusiliers. The term ‘North British’ was an attempt by the Hanoverian Government to eliminate the name Scotland after the 1707 Act of Union.

The 21st was deployed to the West Indies during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792– 1802) where it captured the important French trading Islands of Martinique and Guadalupe. In 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars the 21st was part of Sir Thomas Graham’s unsuccessful attempt to capture Bergen-op-Zoom in Holland. The Regiment also served during The Alexandria expedition of 1807 briefly capturing Alexandria from the Ottoman-French allegiance.

Following the defeat of Napoleon the Regiment was dispatched to America to curb the expansionist ambitions of the United States, which tried to annex Canada during the war of 1812 (1812-1815). The War was a 32-month military conflict between the United States and the British Empire, resolving many of the remaining issues of the American War of Independence. The Regiment fought at the Battle of Bladensburg, the capture of Washington and the unsuccessful attempt to capture New Orleans.

The Regiment was once again dispatched to the West Indies in 1819 and remained there until 1827 suppressing rebels in the Maihaca District of Demerara. After a brief return to Britain, the 21st embarked for Australia in 1832 guarding convicts and was stationed in Tasmania, Perth and Western Australia until 1833. The 21st also served during the Crimean War (1853 –1856) fighting at the Battles of Alma, Inkermann, the Siege of Sevastopol, and the assault on the Redan.

In 1881 The Childers Reforms restructured the British army infantry Regiments into a network of multi-battalion Regiments of two regular and two militia battalions. The Regiment managed to avoid amalgamation under these reforms unlike many other Regiments but the order of precedence was dropped to become The Royal Scots Fusiliers. The Regiment went on to serve during the Boer War (1899-1902) fighting at the Relief of Ladysmith and two World Wars.

In 1959, The Royal Scots Fusiliers was amalgamated with The Highland Light Infantry to become the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment). In 2006 the Regiment was further merged with The Royal Scots Borderers, The Black Watch, The Highlanders, and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Royal Scots Fusiliers during WW1

Since 1815 the balance of power in Europe had been maintained by a series of treaties. In 1888 Wilhelm II was crowned ‘German Emperor and King of Prussia’ and moved from a policy of maintaining the status quo to a more aggressive position. He did not renew a treaty with Russia, aligned Germany with the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire and started to build a Navy rivalling that of Britain. These actions greatly concerned Germany’s neighbours, who quickly forged new treaties and alliances in the event of war. On 28th June 1914 Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by the Bosnian-Serb nationalist group Young Bosnia who wanted pan-Serbian independence. Franz Joseph's the Austro-Hungarian Emperor (with the backing of Germany) responded aggressively, presenting Serbia with an intentionally unacceptable ultimatum, to provoke Serbia into war. Serbia agreed to 8 of the 10 terms and on the 28th July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, producing a cascade effect across Europe. Russia bound by treaty to Serbia declared war with Austro-Hungary, Germany declared war with Russia and France declared war with Germany. Germany’s army crossed into neutral Belgium in order to reach Paris, forcing Britain to declare war with Germany (due to the Treaty of London (1839) whereby Britain agreed to defend Belgium in the event of invasion). By the 4th August 1914 Britain and much of Europe were pulled into a war which would last 1,566 days, cost 8,528,831 lives and 28,938,073 casualties or missing on both sides.

The Regiment raised 19 Battalions; it was awarded 58 Battle Honours and 4 Victoria Crosses losing 5,600 men during the course of the war.

1st Battalion
04.08.1914 Stationed at Gosport as part of the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division.
14.08.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
1914
The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, The Battle of Le Cateau, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of La Bassee and Messines 1914, First Battle of Ypres.
1915
Winter Operations 1914-15, The First Attack on Bellewaarde, The Actions of Hooge, The Second Attack on Bellewaarde.
05.04.1916 Transferred to the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division;
1916
The Actions of the Bluff and St Eloi Craters, The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of the Ancre.
1917
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Second Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Arleux, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of the Menin Road, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Cambrai 1917.
1918
The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of Bapaume, The First Battle of Arras 1918, The Battle of Estaires, The Battle of Hazebrouck, The Battle of Bethune, The Battle of Albert, The Second Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of the Canal du Nord, The Battle of Cambrai 1918, The Battle of the Selle.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Romeries N.E. of Solesmes, France.

2nd Battalion
04.08.1914 Stationed at Gibraltar.
Sept 1914 Returned to England and moved to Lyndhurst joining the 21st Brigade of the 7th Division.
06.10.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Zeebrugge and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
1914
The First Battle of Ypres. (The Division suffered heavy casualties and took the rest of the year to rebuild.)
1915
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, The Battle of Aubers, The Battle of Festubert, The second action of Givenchy, The Battle of Loos.
19.12.1915 Transferred to the 21st Brigade of the 30th Division and then the 90th Brigade of the 30th Division;
1916
The Battle of Albert, The Battle of the Transloy Ridges.
1917
The pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Second Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Pilkem Ridge.
07.04.1918 Transferred to the 120th Brigade of the 40th Division.
02.04.1918 Transferred to the South African Brigade of the 9th Division
1918
The Battle of Messines, The Battle of Bailleul, The First Battle of Kemmel, The Second Battle of Kemmel.
13.09.1918 Transferred to the 28th Brigade of the 9th Division;
The Advance in Flanders, The Final Advance in Flanders, The Battle of Courtrai, The action of Ooteghem.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Cuerne N.E. of Courtrai, Belgium.

3rd (Reserve) Battalion
04.08.1914 Stationed at Ayr and then moved to Gourock-Clyde Defences.
April 1916 Moved to Greenock where it remained.

1/4th & 1/5th Battalion Territorial Force
04.08.1914 The 1/4th stationed at Kilmarnock and the 1/5th stationed at Ayr both as part of the South Scottish Brigade of the Lowland Division and then moved to Stirling.
11.05.1915 Formation became the 155th Brigade of the 52nd Division.
May 1915 Embarked for the Mediterranean from Liverpool arriving at Mudros 29.05.1915.
07.06.1915 Landed at Gallipoli and engaged in various actions against the Turkish Army including;
The Battles of Gully Ravine, Achi Baba Nullah, Krithia Nullahs, The evacuation of Helles.
Jan 1916 Evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt due to severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather, took over defence of the Suez Canal and then engaged on the Palestine Campaign;
Dueidar, The Battle of Romani.
1917
The First Battle of Gaza, The Second Battle of Gaza, The Third Battle of Gaza, Wadi el Hesi, Burqa, El Maghar, The capture of Junction Station, The Battle of Nabi Samweil, The Battle of Jaffa.
April 1918 Embarked for France landing at Marseilles and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
The Battle of Albert, The Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line, The Battle of the Canal du Nord, The Final Advance in Artois.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Jurbise north of Mons, France.

The Ardeer Company Territorial Force
Formed in 1913 by the Nobel’s Explosive Company to their factory at Ardeer in event of war (Very little information available about this company).
04.08.1914 Stationed at Ardeer, guard duty for the factory.
1914 Went to annual camp with the 4th Battalion
Nov 1914 Probably disbanded with ranks returning to work in the factory. Guard duty now handed over to Scottish Rifles
Nov 1918 Still shown in Army List with 5 Officers.

2/4th & 2/5th Battalion Territorial Forces
Oct 1914 The 2/4th formed at Kilmarnock and the 2/5th formed at Ayr.
Jan 1915 Both joined the 194th Brigade of the 65th Division and then moved to Kinross.
Nov 1915 Moved to Falkirk amalgamated with the 2/5th Battalion and the 2/5th Border Regiment to form No.13 Battalion in the 194th Brigade.
Jan 1916 Resumed its identity absorbing the 2/5th Battalion.
Mar 1916 Moved to Chelmsford.
Jan 1917 Moved to Ireland stationed at Ballykinler and Dublin.
Aug 1917 Moved to Oughterard, Galway and then Dublin and then Curragh.
Mar 1918 The 65th Division broken up and battalion disbanded.

3/4th & 3/5th Battalion Territorial Force
May 1915 Formed at Kilmarnock and Ayr then moved to Ripon.
08.04.1916 Became the 4th and 5th Reserve Battalion and moved to Catterick.
01.09.1916 The 4th absorbed the 5th as part of the Lowland Reserve Brigade Territorial Force.
Nov 1917 Moved to Edinburgh and then to Kinross.

6th (Service) Battalion
Aug 1914 Formed at Ayr as part of the First New Army (K1) and then moved to Bordon in the 27th Brigade of the 9th Division.
Feb 1915 Moved to Bramshott.
11.05.1915 Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
1915
The Battle of Loos.
1916
The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Le Transloy.
07.05.1916 Amalgamated with the 7th Battalion to form the 6/7th Battalion and transferred to the 45th Brigade of the 15th Division;
1916
The defence of the Kink position, The Battle of Pozieres, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Le Transloy.
1917
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Second Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Pilckem, The Battle of Langemark.
21.02.1918 Transferred to the 59th Division as a Pioneer Battalion;
The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Bailleul, The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge.
10.05.1918 Reduced to training cadre.
18.06.1918 Transferred to the 47th Brigade of the 16th Division and returned to England.
20.06.1918 Moved to Deal.
02.07.1918 Absorbed by the 18th Scottish Rifles.

7th (Service) Battalion
Sept 1914 Formed at Ayr as part of the Second New Army (K2) and then moved to Aldershot in the 45th Brigade of the 15th Division and then moved to Bramshott.
Feb 1915 Moved to Basingstoke and then Chisledon-Draycott Camp.
09.07.1915 Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne.
1915
The Battle of Loos.
1916
German gas attacks near Hulluch, The defence of the Kink position.
13.05.1916 Amalgamated with the 6th Battalion.

8th (Service) Battalion
01.10.1914 Formed at Ayr as part of the Third New Army and then moved to Codford St. Mary, Salisbury Plain in the 77th Brigade of the 26th Division.
Nov 1914 Moved to Bristol.
April 1915 Moved to Sutton Veny.
20.09.1915 Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne.
Nov 1915 Moved to Salonika and engaged in various actions against the Bulgarian Army including;
1916
The Battle of Horseshoe Hill.
1917
The Battles of Doiran.
1918
The Battle of Doiran.
30.09.1918 Ended the war near Strumica N.W. of Lake Doiran, Macedonia.

9th (Reserve) Battalion
23.10.1914 Formed at Gourock as a service battalion of the Fourth New Army (K4).
10.04.1915 Became a 2nd Reserve Battalion and then moved to Paisley and then Stobs and Catterick.
April 1916 Moved to Inverkeithing as part of the 12th Reserve Brigade.

10th (Works) Battalion
June 1916 Formed at Ayr moved to Dumbarton where it remained and became the 4th Labour Battalion of the Labour Corps.

11th Battalion Territorial Force
01.01.1917 Formed at Deal from the 11th Provisional Battalion of the 221st Brigade.
27.04.1918 Became the Garrison Guard Battalion and went to France.
12.05.1918 Transferred to the 178th Brigade of the 59th Division.
July 1918 Title of ‘Garrison’ dropped and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
The Battle of Albert, The general final advance in Artois and Flanders.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Velaines north of Tournai, Belgium.

12th (Ayr & Lanark Yeomanry) Battalion Territorial Force
14.01.1917 Formed in Egypt from the dismounted Ayrshire and Lanarkshire Yeomanry of the 229th Brigade of the 74th Division and engaged in various actions of the Palestine Campaign including;
1917
The Second Battle of Gaza, The Third Battle of Gaza, The Capture of Beersheba, The capture of the Sheria Position, The capture of Jerusalem, The Defence of Jerusalem.
1918
The Battle of Tell'Asur.
May 1918 Moved to France.
21.06.1918 Transferred to the 94th Brigade of the 31st Division which engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
1918
The First Battle of Arras, The Battle of Estaires, The Battle of Hazebrouck, The Defence of Nieppe Forest, The attack at La Becque, The capture of Vieux Berquin, The Battle of Ypres, The action of Tieghem.
11.11.1918 Ended the war near Renaix, Belgium.

13th (Home Service) Battalion
27.04.1918 Formed at Deal in order to replace the 11th Battalion of the 221st Brigade and moved to Ramsgate.
July 1918 Moved to Sandwich, Kent where it remained.

1st Garrison Battalion
Oct 1915 Formed at Gailes.
Feb 1916 Moved to India and then formed as 2nd (Home Service) Garrison battalion then absorbed into the 1st Garrison Battalion.

Royal Scots Fusiliers during WW2

WW2 Battalions of The Royal Scots Fusiliers

1st Battalion:
September 1939: The Battalion had returned to the UK from India and became part of 20th Infantry Brigade
14 July 1940: The Battalion became one of the four that formed the 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group. It became attached to Force 121 as the British Expeditionary Force for deployments overseas on combined operations.
28 April 1942: It set sail from Greenock for Madagascar via Freetown and Durban.
05 May 1942: Took part in the successful Madagascar invasion.
20 August 1942: Set sail for South Africa.
10 September 1942: Landed at Majunga on the west coast.
January 1943: Arrived in India and took part in the Burma Campaign.
September 1944: In the same Brigade became part of the 36th Infantry Division and was in action through North Arakan, Mandalay and on the Rangoon Road.
May 1945: It returned to India where the Battalion a long with the other original Units left the 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group Brigade.

2nd Battalion:
The Battalion was part of the 17th Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division through most of WW2.
Early October1939: Went to France as one of the independent infantry brigades and was part of the British Expeditionary Force.
1940: Saw action in France, Belgium and Holland.
26-28 May 1940: Action at the Ypres-Comines Canal. They had been ordered to stand fast and defend a hill, enabling troops from the BEF to withdraw from Dunkirk.
June 1940: After the Dunkirk evacuation, were forced to surrender and held captive to the German’s.
15 June 1940: The ones that managed to escape evacuated from France and returned to the UK.
05 May 1942: The Battalion a long with the rest of the Brigade had left the 5th Division and had by now become part of Force 121 in the invasion of Madagascar Codenamed ‘Operation Ironclad’.
11 June 1942: Following the Japanese Invasion of Burma, they moved to India and rejoined the 5th Division
1943: The Battalion in the 17th Infantry Brigade and same Division served in the Italian Campaign.
July/August 1943: Took part in the invasion of Sicily, codenamed ‘Operation Husky’. (Serving with XIII Corps. Division Commanded by Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey)
17 January 1944: Took part in the first assault at The Battle of Monte Cassino (still with same Brigade and 5th Division) X Corps.

4/5th Battalion:
The Battalion was part of 156th Infantry Brigade, 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division.
Mid June 1940: Was sent to France in an unsuccessful attempt to form a second British Expeditionary Force
Late June 1940: All units were evacuated during 'Operation Ariel'.
September 1944: Involved in the North-West Europe theatre.
January 1945: Took part in codename 'Operation Blackcock' clearing of the Roer Triangle formed by the towns of Roermond, Sittard and Heinsberg. The operation was carried out under command of the XII Corps.

6th Battalion:
The Battalion was part of the 44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade, part of 15th (Scottish) Division. It remained in England for most of the war.
April 1940: Became one of the ‘Divisional Support Units’ attached to the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division to form Saar Force
End of May 1940: In retreat to Dunkirk Beaches, the German’s managed to cut them off, so forced to surrender held captive to the German’s.
15 June 1940: The ones that escaped captivity managed to return to Southampton, UK. From there the men moved on to Gailes in Ayrshire.
13 June 1944: Sent overseas to take part in the Normandy Campaign.
26 June 1944: Took part in 'Operation Epsom' (also known as the First Battle of Odon) and was supported by the 31st Tank Brigade. The following day and after making small armoured counter-attacks, managed to gain more ground and captured a bridge over the River Odon.
July 1944: Took part in Hill 112 ‘Operation Jupiter’
28 October 1944: The Battalion went onto the defensive in the area around Deurne and took part in ‘The Operations in Peel’.
29 October1944: Moved to Asten, and by early evening had taken up positions in the southern edge of a forest south of Liessel.
November 1944: The Battalion suffered heavy casualties in Meijel (Netherlands) area.
06 November 1944: Came to relieve 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry at Heusden.

11th Battalion:
1939: The Battalion was part of the 147th Infantry Brigade and stayed with the same Brigade throughout the war. It became attached to 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
15–17 April 1940: It first saw action when it took part in the short and ill-fated landings in Norway that were intended to retake the ports of Trondheim and Narvik from the Germans.
May 1940: Withdrew from Norway.
17 May 1940: Had been sent to Iceland to relieve the Royal Marines. Here the Brigade adopted the polar bear on an ice floe as its insignia.
April 1942: The Battalion a long with 147th Brigade was transferred back to the UK.
June 1944: Shortly after D-Day it moved to Normandy as part of XXX Corps.
Including;
10-18 July 1944: Actions along the river Odon.
17 September 1944: Operation ‘Market Garden’.
During the rest of the war the division was on various times under the command of the I Corps, the II Canadian Corps and the I Canadian Corps. Its last major contribution to the war was the Liberation of Arnhem and the fierce battles that led to it.

During the rest of the war the division was on various times under the command of the I Corps, the II Canadian Corps and the I Canadian Corps. Its last major contribution to the war was the Liberation of Arnhem and the fierce battles that led to it.

Forces Reunited Gallery Images Matching Royal Scots Fusiliers

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Memories of Royal Scots Fusiliers

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

Royal Scots Fusiliers, in 1950

Written by EDWARD McVEAN

My matchless motor bike was flattened by a tank outside the signal office at 54 RHU at Bielefeld in 1950.

Forces Reunited Forum Posts Involving Royal Scots Fusiliers

"...go, and be lumped into one........We seem to have been an easy target over the last 30 odd years having already lost the Gordon Highlanders, the Queens Own Highlanders, the Camerons, Highland light Infantry, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), The Royal Scots Fusiliers.....now the Royal Scots and the KOSBies........ "
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"Now all the old regiments are disappearing,what will happen to all tho old nick-names of Regts/Corps.Here are a few I remember:- Pontious Pilates Bodyguard (1st Foot) Royal Scots Fusiliers. Mutton-chop Lancers (2nd? Foot)The Queens Regt The Buffs. (3rd Foot) The nickname became the official name of the East Kent Regt. The Fighting Fifth (Northumberland Fusiliers. Shiny Ten (City of London Regt.Royal Fusiliers) Bloody Eleventh (Devons) Silly Welsh B------s (South Wales..."
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"...two trips and joined the New Zealand shipping Company aboard the Rangitoto, I jumpt ship in Wellinton and deported after about a year comming home as replaced on ship aboard the Rangitikie.I was then called up for N S but joined as a regular in the Royal Scots Fusiliers and posted to Malaya, I had called in to Penang about four times but never new that i would return to Penang as a Soldier at Minden Barracks and patrol the jungles on the mainland looking for terrorists. [malamamorial.jpg]"
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"...I see You come from a seafarig family and are of scottish decent, although i was born in Scotland i have lived in England from the age of five, all my fathers side of the family immigrated to Canada while my father was serving in India with the Royal Scots Fusiliers,he was to join them whene he came home, but he never got no further than England. along with my father, I and two brothers have all served in the same regiment. I and my brother John are going to a reunion for R.S.F Malay vets in..."
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"...I see You come from a seafarig family and are of scottish decent, although i was born in Scotland i have lived in England from the age of five, all my fathers side of the family immigrated to Canada while my father was serving in India with the Royal Scots Fusiliers,he was to join them whene he came home, but he never got no further than England. along with my father, I and two brothers have all served in the same regiment. I and my brother John are going to a reunion for R.S.F Malay vets in..."
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Battles / Campaigns

Marne (1914) WW1

The 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers were attached to 9th Infantry Brigade 3rd Division and was part of the British Expeditionary Force (John French, serving as the first Commander-in-Chief of the BEF)

The First Battle of the Marne fought between 5 and 12 September 1914 marked the end of the German sweep into France and the beginning of the trench warfare that was to characterise World War One.
It was also one of the first major battles in which reconnaissance planes played a decisive role, by discovering weak points in the German lines and allowing the allies to take advantage of them.

Germany's grand Schlieffen Plan to conquer France entailed a wheeling movement of the northern wing of its armies through central Belgium to enter France near Lille. It would turn west near the English Channel and then south to cut off the French retreat. If the plan succeeded, Germany's armies would simultaneously encircle the French Army from the north and capture Paris.

A French offensive in Lorraine prompted German counter-attacks that threw the French back onto a fortified barrier. Their defence strengthened, they could send troops to reinforce their left flank - a redistribution of strength that would prove vital in the Battle of the Marne. The German northern wing was weakened further by the removal of 11 divisions to fight in Belgium and East Prussia. The German 1st Army, under Kluck, then swung north of Paris, rather than south west, as intended. This required them to pass into the valley of the River Marne across the Paris defences, exposing them to a flank attack and a possible counter-envelopment.

On 3 September, Joffre ordered a halt to the French retreat and three days later his reinforced left flank began a general offensive. Kluck was forced to halt his advance prematurely in order to support his flank: he was still no further up the Marne Valley than Meaux.

On 9 September Bülow learned that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was advancing into the gap between his 2nd Army and Kluck. He ordered a retreat, obliging Kluck to do the same. The counterattack of the French 5th and 6th Armies and the BEF developed into the First Battle of the Marne, a general counter-attack by the French Army. By 11 September the Germans were in full retreat.

This remarkable change in fortunes was caused partially by the exhaustion of many of the German forces: some had marched more than 240km (150 miles), fighting frequently. The German advance was also hampered by demolished bridges and railways, constricting their supply lines, and they had underestimated the resilience of the French.

The Germans withdrew northward from the Marne and made a firm defensive stand along the Lower Aisne River. Here the benefits of defence over attack became clear as the Germans repelled successive Allied attacks from the shelter of trenches: the First Battle of the Aisne marked the real beginning of trench warfare on the Western Front.

In saving Paris from capture by pushing the Germans back some 72km (45 miles), the First Battle of the Marne was a great strategic victory, as it enabled the French to continue the war. However, the Germans succeeded in capturing a large part of the industrial north east of France, a serious blow. Furthermore, the rest of 1914 bred the geographic and tactical deadlock that would take another three years and countless lives to break.

The Battle of Marne was also one of the first major battles in which reconnaissance planes played a decisive role, by discovering weak points in the German lines and allowing the allies to take advantage of them. The mobility and destructive power of the numerous French 75 batteries engaged in the Battle of the Marne played a key role in slowing down and then halting German progress everywhere.

Over two million men fought in the First Battle of the Marne, of whom more than 500,000 were killed or wounded. French casualties totalled 250,000, 80,000 of them dead, while British casualties were 13,000, 1,700 of them dead. The Germans suffered 220,000 casualties.
1

Active From: 1878 - 1959

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