The Great War Part 240, March 22nd 1919

542 The Great IVar Copyright The 6reat war TERRAIN OF THE BATTLE OF MAUBEUGE. On November gth the Third British Army captured Maubeuge the enemys main strategic railway centre. This victory cut the last of his important lateral communications and in effect split the German forces into two parts one on each side of the Ardennes barrier. commanded the way from France into the Ardennes through the rugged gap of the Semois River and the old border territory of the Dukes of Bouillon. General Gouraud worked towards the frontier towns on the Meuse down the Bar stream and over the ridges of the Vence tributary with his cavalry riding after the enemy. In the meantime the American forces quickened their pace over the high wooded land between the Bar and the Meuse storming the great 338-metre height by Stonne an outlying eminence of the Argonne Forest ridges and the road centre of Beaumont by the Meuse on November 5th. A t the same time the passage of the river was forced southward at Dun where the Heights of the Meuse were gallantly carried. Here the 5th Division and the National Guard recruited from Wisconsin and Michigan steadily fought onward and upward for three days taking Lion-devant-Dun and the hills by Brandeville. Other American and French forces operating from Verdun assailed the enemy from the south while he was being fiercely pressed from the west with the result that all the Heights of the Meuse Heights of the were wrested from the stricken invader by Meuse carried the afternoon of November 8th. The German troops under General von Fuchs were thrown back nearly four miles on a front of some nine miles by Damvillers into the bog of the Woevre plain. There the Second American Army began to enter into inaction the direction of Metz winning ways of approach by the old Hindenburg line extending from behind St. Mihiel. This however was in preparation for the stroke through Lorraine arranged for November 14th. Of more historic interest was the race to Sedan between the Americans and French. The French made a wider sweep northward to Mezieres reaching it on November 7th. The Americans drove straight northward at Sedan the 42nd (or Rainbow) Division working forward with a French force on its left and the 1st Division fighting along the Meuse and looking for a crossing. The weather was continuously wet and misty, but the troops were tense with excite­ment. The thought of executing one of the most remarkable of ironic strokes animated them. They quickened their advance and where the ground was clogging their field-artillery they reduced the batteries from four to two guns, and used double teams of horses to precipitate the rush of the pursuit. In the afternoon of November 6th as the 1st American Division came round the bend of the Meuse it ran into the Rainbow Division and the patrols of the two forces gallantly competed for the honour of the first entry into the western suburb of Sedan. Which won is a matter of dispute that later history will have to decide. Only the Torcy suburb was reached marking an advance of twenty-five miles since November 1st by the First American Army. .As the bridges were broken and the enemy was standing on the heights on the other edge of the town the Meuse could not be crossed. But the German communi­cations between Lorraine and Belgium were cut. The invading host was visibly broken into two pieces The part trying to defend itself between Ghent and Rocroi had lines of retreat converging on Namur and Liege. Amass of cavalry, preceded by light storming cars might cut the ways of withdrawal in Belgium by a terrifying raid. The part strug­gling south of Rocroi was cornered b .they Ardennes course of the Meuse in front of a great rugged highland, almost without practicable traffic way and cross-cut by gorges of the Semois River. The Allies on the other hand, had several means of taking fiercely in the flank from the Longwy gap and Arlon the disrupted hostile columns mazed in the narrow roundabout byways of the Ardennes. And there was the larger envelopment moving through Lorraine which Marshal Foch in person had prepared. The situation which the elder Moltke arranged by Sedan in September 1870 bore no comparison with that obtaining by the same town in Novem- Huns war-machine ber 1918. Where a hundred thousand falling to pieces Frenchmen had been trapped two million Germans were broken into hopeless fragments. From Villers- Bretonneux to the Meuse their centre had been driven straight for a hundred miles upon the rocky mass of the A r(iennes and there smashed and their wings were failing from exhaustion. On the British front all the German war-machine was falling to pieces. The beaten rearguards were composed of ragged, despairing men lost to all sense of discipline unwilling to fight anymore and full of bitterness against their ruler and their officers. Their horses were bare-ribbed through starva­tion and their transport rotting beyond repair. As they fled they plundered farms of live-stock to feed themselves until they reached Germany. Very quickly they moved destroy­ing less of their own abandoned war material as they went. When Tournai was recovered on November 8th the British cavalry had to gallop to find the enemy and only after a ride often miles to the outskirts of the town of Ath on the turned line of the Dendre was contact resumed with the northern German forces on November 10th. The weather hfid cleared two days previously which did not improve matters from the enemys point of view. All his movements were more easily and minutely traced day and night and pursuing attack from the air broke what moral remained generally among his troops.
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