GERMAN OCCUPATION OF FRANCE (WORLD WAR I)



France was allied with Russia and Serbia and so was ready to commit to war against the German Empire.


Germany occupied Luxembourg on August 2, 1914 and gave neutral Belgium an ultimatum: let German armies pass through on their way to invade France or face invasion itself. The Belgians refused, so Germany invaded and declared war on France in August 3.


Britain entered the war on 4 August, although was relatively unprepared militarily and thus couldn't assist France much until 7 August. In this day, French forces invade Alsace.


The Germans captured Brussels by 20 August and soon had taken over a large portion of northern France. The original plan was to continue southwest and attack Paris from the west.


In August 24, Germans enter France near Lille.


By early September, they were within 40 miles of Paris, and the French government had relocated to Bordeaux. The Allies finally stopped the advance northeast of Paris at the Marne River. This was the farthest push west by the Germans during the entire war.


The war on the Western Front was fought largely in France and characterized by extremely violent battles, often with new and more destructive military technology.


Both sides dug in, creating lines of muddy trenches. These were defended with barbed-wire fences, land-mines, artillery and murderous machine-guns. The trenches were so difficult to attack that the battle lines became frozen in a stalemate. By November 1914 they extended from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border.


Although Paris and most of France was saved, almost all of Belgium and much of the northern borderlands of France remained in enemy hands. German troops established control with harsh repressive measures, confiscating houses and property for the use of occupying troops, and killing people who resisted.


Population was used for forced labor to benefit the German war effort, and given inadequate food supplies. The north's mines, factories, farms and railways were exploited, and systematically looted for whatever Germany needed.



Main Events

After completing their occupation of Belgium on August 20, 1914, German forces moved quickly upon France with two armies. Although fighting between French and German forces had taken place in the region of Alsace-Lorraine in southeastern France, the first joint French-British encounters with Germany occurred near the town of Mons along the Franco-Belgian border on August 23, 1914.


As French and British armies tried to halt the advancing Germans, they found themselves under heavy fire from long-range German artillery. With the German troops still well outside the range of their own guns, the Allied Powers were quickly forced to retreat. The allied retreat continued for two full weeks, allowing the Germans to advance over 120 miles to the river Marne, on the outskirts of Paris. For the Germans, the advance was not an easy one. As they retreated, the French and British armies took every opportunity to fight back and to hold each piece of ground for as long as they could.



The First Battle of the Marne

On September 4, the Allied retreat was halted. The exhausted and sleep-deprived German troops faced an Allied defense reinforced with fresh troops brought in from Paris. On September 5, a decisive battle began that lasted five days. More than a million troops fought on each side as the Allies made their stand, determined to prevent the fall of Paris.


The Battle of the Marne as been between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had reached the outskirts of Paris. The counterattack of six French field armies and one British army along the Marne River forced the German Imperial Army to abandon its push on Paris and retreat northeast, setting the stage for four years of trench warfare on the Western Front.


As the Germans drove at Paris from the southeast, a gap emerged between the German First and Second armies, and British and French commanders seized the opportunity to split the German forces apart by moving into the gap. French reservists were even ferried in to fill the breach using streams of taxicabs. The Germans were never able to regroup.



Formation of the Western Front

On September 9, 1914, after four days of intense fighting, the German armies found themselves unable to maintain their position on the Marne and began to fall back. British and French forces pursued the Germans doggedly and were able to drive them back forty-five miles, all the way back to the river Aisne. At this point, the Germans managed to dig in successfully and hold their position, taking advantage of a shorter supply line. A deadlock ensued, with neither side able to budge the other. The western front that formed would remain centered near this position for the rest of the war.



The Battle of Verdun

This battle was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February-18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. The Battle of Verdun ended as a French tactical victory. However, it can also be considered a costly strategic stalemate. The German High Command had failed to achieve its two objectives: to capture the city of Verdun and to inflict a much higher casualty counts on its French adversary.


By the end of the battle (December 1916), the French Second Army had rolled back the German forces around Verdun, but not quite to their initial positions of February 1916.



Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 18 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name.


The battle consisted of an offensive by the British and French armies against the German Army, which, since invading France in August 1914, had occupied large areas of that country.


The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War; by the time fighting had petered out in late autumn 1916 the forces involved had suffered more than 1 million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded.



The Second Battle of the Marne

The Second Battle of the Marne or Battle of Reims, 15 July-6 August 1918, was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by French and American forces overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties.



Failure of the Schlieffen Plan

The aborted German invasion of France, though just a month into the war, marked a major turning point. Although World War I continued for four more years, this first failed advance is often cited as the point when Germany lost the war it had entered with such confidence. Unable to conquer France outright, Germany became mired in a war on multiple fronts.


The Schlieffen Plan, according to which Germany would have quickly attacked and defeated France before Russia could mobilize and attack Germany, had failed. German military leaders, failing to adapt their strategy to cope with the new situation, suddenly faced a long, drawn-out war on an entrenched front.



France at the end of WWI

Peace terms were agreed upon in the Treaty of Versailles on 11 November 1918, largely negotiated by Georges Clemenceau for French matters.


Germany was required to take full responsibility for the war and to pay war reparations.


The German industrial Saar Basin, a coal and steel region, was occupied by France.


The German African colonies were partitioned between France and Britain such as German Cameroon.


Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, and the German Empire lost eastern territories such as the Danzig Corridor.


The war brought great losses of troops and resources. Fought in large part on French soil, the war led to approximately 1.4 million French dead including civilians, and four times as many casualties.


From the remains of the Ottoman Empire, France acquired the Mandate of Syria and the Mandate of Lebanon.


Bibliography: Article based on Sites "Sparknotes" and Wikipedia