Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/898

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Aug. 31 Amiens fell; the British were definitely cut off from their bases in the Channel ports; and the whole Allied line was withdrawn, pivoting its right on the fortress of Verdun. Paris was now in danger and the newly formed VI. Army, with Gen. Sordet's cavalry corps, was sent back to the capital, where both units were to come under the orders of Gen. Gallieni, the military governor.

Gen. Joffre, however, never wavered in his intention to assume the offensive at the first opportunity, and he decided to continue his retirement merely until the protection of a topographical obstacle would afford his troops a temporary respite during which reorganization could tak3 place and wastage might be made good. The limits of the withdrawal were laid down as the territory immediately S. of the rivers Seine, Aube and Ornain. Tactically the barrier formed by the river lines might reasonably be expected to afford the brief breathing-time required by the Allied troops, but the project was open to the objection that its adoption would mean the abandonment of a further section of French soil and the isolation of the capital.

Meanwhile, inside Paris Gen. Gallieni was labouring with feverish energy to make good the deficiencies of defence caused by the apathy and neglect of successive French Governments. Even in the critical situation of the last days of Aug. the Government of the day was more alive to the danger of alarming the populace than to the necessity of defence, and refused to sanction some of the measures which Gen. Gallieni regarded as indispensable. The actual garrison consisted of four and a half divisions of the Territorial Army (i.e. men of the older classes), some cavalry and field artillery, as well as 5,000 Fusiliers Marins sent to reinforce the police of the capital; but on Sept. 1 the newly formed French VI. Army, some 60,000 strong under the command of Gen. Maunoury, was formally placed under the orders of the military governor. In addition to the VI. Army the cavalry corps of Gen. Sordet had been sent back to Paris, and two other reserve divs., the 6ist and 62nd, were at Pontoise; but these had been very roughly handled at St. Pol and Arras and had lost most of whatever fighting efficiency they had originally possessed. A far more valuable reinforcement was the 4Sth Div. from N. Africa, which had just detrained in Paris and was impounded by the military governor.

At six o'clock on the evening of Sept. i Gen. Gallieni issued his first operation orders. In that document he laid down definitely that Paris was to form the point d'appui of the left of the French armies which were retreating towards the south. Gen. Maunoury, in his retirement on Paris, reinforced by the 92nd Territorial Div. and other units, was to cover the entrenched camp from the N. and E., and the cavalry corps of Gen. Sordet was placed at his disposal as a protection to his left. The 45th Div. was to be the general reserve under Gen. Gallieni's own hand, while the actual garrison of Paris itself was to consist of some four territorial divisions. The IV. Corps (from the IV. Army) had been promised by Gen. Joffre, but was not expected to arrive from Verdun until Sept. 4. In touch with the Army of Paris were the British, for the moment on the line Nanteuil-le-Haudouin-Betz, but retreating part passu with the French armies on its right.

Although for more than 48 hours the Germans had renounced the advance on Paris, all through Sept. 2 it was believed in the city that they were still marching straight on the capital. The arrival of the enemy was, indeed, now thought to be but a matter of hours. German agents had notified the U.S. embassy of the forthcoming entry; the embassy had prepared notices to be affixed as safeguards to the residences of American citizens; and the ambassador came formally in person to request sanction for their issue from the military governor. Gen. Gallieni spent the afternoon in a final survey of the positions occupied by the forces under his command, convinced that the morrow would witness the opening of the battle which was to decide the fate of the French capital. What he had seen of the troops on whom the great duty of defending Paris was thrust had by no means reassured him. The VI. Army largely made up of reserve troops had not recovered from the disorganization caused by its hurried retreat from the neighbourhood of Amiens. The 45th Div. from Algiers, however, presented a more encouraging sight. Composed of seasoned soldiers, who had not been exposed to the depressing experience of retreat, and admirably equipped, its fort bel aspect gladdened the heart of the military governor on that anxious day; but as for the 92nd Div. of Territoriales its field entrenchments were but half finished, and its personnel was hardly of the class which a commander could put with confidence against first-line German troops. Gen. Gallieni's actual instructions were to defend Paris a outrance so as to save it from the invader; but his military instinct had led him to aim at active defence so as not only to save the capital but to make the fortress a strong support for the left flank of the Allied armies in the field. The task was a formidable one, and Gsn. Gallieni was under no illusions as to the gravity of the outlook when he reached his headquarters in Paris in the evening, and heard news which altered the whole situation.

The German glissement towards the S.E. had begun on Aug. 31 and had actually been observed by a French cavalry patrol about noon on that date from a point near St. Maur, but curiously enough the information had never come to Gen. Gallieni's ears. Even as late as the morning of Sept. 3 all the information available had pointed to a German advance on Paris with the Senlis-Paris road as the axis of movement. But by midday the situation had completely changed. Intelligence transmitted by aeroplanes and cavalry patrols showed that the German I. Army had abandoned the march on Paris, and by evening it was clear that the main body of Gen. von Kluck's army was heading S.E. towards the junction of the right of the British with the left of the French V. Army.

Gen. Galliéni's first decision was to verify these reports so as to eliminate all possibility of error. At dawn on the following day all available aircraft ascended from the capital with express instructions to report by 10 A.M. on these movements of the Gsrman right wing. The information gathered completely confirmed the intelligence of the evening before. The Senlis-Paris road was free of Germans; Senlis and Creil were in flames; and, with the exception of some cavalry patrols, the country W. of the Senlis road was empty. So much was absolutely definite, and a comparison of the various reports sent in led to the following deduction as to the movements of the German I. Army. The IV. Reserve Corps was acting as a flank guard and was marching in two columns towards Lizy-sur-Ourcq and Meaux, flanked by some cavalry towards Crouy. The II., III., IV. and IX. Corps had crossed the Marne and were at 10 A.M. deploying along the Petit Morin from La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to Orbais.

Gen. Galliéni could now turn his attention from the actual defence of the capital to the far wider issue of the war as a whole. The situation in which he now found himself required exceptional power of judgment to ensure a right decision. On the one hand there was the German I. Army making a flank march across the N.E. of Paris, actually inviting attack, and providing a temptation almost impossible to resist; on the other hand the,re was the fact that Gen. Joffre had prescribed a retirement behind the Upper Seine and Aube as an essential preliminary before any offensive could be attempted. Gen. Gallieni clearly realized that combined action by the armies in the field and the army in Paris might effect immense results in the new state of affairs; but he also saw that a mere sortie by the army of Paris would be an extremely dangerous measure. He realized, in fact, that Paris and the army in the field must sink or swim together. If Gen. Joffre hoped to resume the offensive the time to do so was while his left was still in touch with the capital, which would form a point d'appui for that flank, and before the golden opportunity of striking at the enemy's flank had passed away. Anticipating the sanction of the commander-in-chief, which he hoped to obtain, Gen. Galliéni at 9 A.M. ordered the commander of the VI. Army to hold his troops in readiness for an advance against the exposed flank of the German I. Army, informing him at the same time that the 45th Div. was now at his disposal. Gen. Galliéni's chief-of-staff then informed G.H.Q. by telephone that the VI. Army had now received orders to