The most impressive fighting withdrawal in history

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,344
Spain
#81
Mons is a weird one. It IS significant in the sense that it WAS the first encounter in anger between the BEF and the German army in WWI.

I actually thought the first episode of the 2014 BBC series "Our World War", dealing with Mons, did a pretty good job of on the one hand chronicling this, while avoiding most of the blatant mythologization. (Which was what I was expecting, so it was a bit of a surprise.)

Hard fighting, but the "victory" was mostly a matter of Sir John French (who decided to fight it after all) saying so.
Mons was not a British Victory but yes a great feat!
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,725
SoCal
#82
What about the transfer of a significant part of the French Army from Alsace-Lorraine to the Marne in 1914? Would that count for this?

I mean, French troops got an extremely bloody nose in Alsace-Lorraine but French General Joseph Joffre was able to quickly realize that the main German attack is going to come through Belgium and thus was able to use the French railroad system to quickly transfer a lot of French troops from Alsace-Lorraine to the Marne in August-September 1914 so that they could protect Paris.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,725
SoCal
#83
That's the first time I heard Mac's retreat from the Yalu praised. He allowed his forces to be divided by the Chosen Reservoir and shouldn't have been that far north in the first place. I suppose getting out of this mess deserves some praise, but should it go to Mac or subordinates.
How far north do you think that MacArthur should have stopped in Korea?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,502
Sydney
#84
" Joffre was able to quickly realize that the main German attack is going to come through Belgium "

not really ,
Joffre kept pushing his central offensive well after it had been a bloody failure
General Lanrezac , commanding the Fifth army was screaming that the Germans were doing a Schlieffen again
they were all over him in numbers
Joffre told him not to loose his nerve to keep his positions and attack northward

Lanrezac though that was unhelpful and blinkered , his left wing was being chewed to a pulp
he had to cede ground while pivoting to the left ,
keeping his troops rather than throwing them to be slaughtered in the wrong direction

with the BEF in retreat there was a large gap opening ,
Joffre though that if the Germans were strong in the West that means his attack in the center should be pushed harder
he lost many men ,a great many ...... soon , the Germans were pushing HIM
it's only when having totally failed in his plans he then turned his attention to his left wing
He realized that the Germans were on their way to Paris !

the worst could happen , he could loose his job
bravely he took the appropriate decision and got Lanrezac sacked for having been right all along
Joffre , under his Santa Claus appearance is one of the most despicable commander the French had

for his thirst for media coverage and political plotting he can be compared to mac Arthur
 
Likes: Futurist

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,721
Iowa USA
#85
Too many chefs spoil the broth.

If Lanzerac wasn't ready to be a subordinate it was time for him to go. Regardless of whether Lanzerac was able to detect-infer the thrust of German 2nd Army some 72 hours or so before HQ, by 4 September the French HQ had done a fine job of positioning the armies.

There's only one ultimate commander, it wasn't Lanzerac.

And this brings to the fore what this supposed "publicity hound" had as his strength, which was decisiveness.
 
Likes: Futurist

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,502
Sydney
#86
" There is only one ultimate commander "
true ....very true ! but an army commander has some responsibilities toward the ultimate good of his actions
Lanzerac was right , Joffre was wrong
had Lanzerac followed his instructions to the letter , the Fifth army would have been destroyed
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,411
#87
Mons was not a British Victory but yes a great feat!
What about it was a great feat? Retreating faster than the French, because that's what they did...

The BEF only fought for a single day along that canal.

Then buggering out was strategically important, but the fighting was not. And the buggering out could have been achieved much more easily by not fighting at all.

Paradoxically the brilliant soldiering done by the BEF at Mons WAS the move to successfully break off contact with the enemy AFTER having allowed him to first engage it in a fight. THAT was seriously difficult. The paradox is just that while this was good and necessary when done – impressive even – it was only necessary as a consequence of the British not keeping up with the overall strategic retreat. The German WERE also trying to lure the French into situations where they would allow themselves to get stuck into the Germans at the time – because that was the Germans' best chance of catching their adversary and defeating him in detail at that point. (The German HQ was anxious to get reports of large number of enemy soldiers being taken captive, since that more than anything would have signalled that they had managed to pin and defeat them – but the figures never came.)

It really was only the BEF that obliged the Germans however. So it's a good thing it was a good army, and managed to extricate itself from that unforced error.

Returning to most impressive retreats, if the BEF is supposedly a contender, then the French 5th Army in 1914 deserves it even more so. Unlike the BEF they managed a controlled fighting retreat on a scale much more massive – and a retreat like that is one of the most difficult moves that can be made – and then in the end they shocked the Germans but not just ending their retreat, but by counterattacking and defeating the Germans.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,411
#88
What about the transfer of a significant part of the French Army from Alsace-Lorraine to the Marne in 1914? Would that count for this?
Not really a retreat was it?

It WAS extraordinary. The Germans had ruled out that they themselves could do that, and so assumed it would be impossible for the French.

I still think rather the French retreat ending in the Marne battle.

The Germans knew at some point the French would have to stop retreating, and since they were chasing them the expectation was that when the French eventually stopped it would be the German who would again be attacking, hopefully victoriously. What they didn't expect was for the French to not just stop, but to immediately turn around and savage them.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,411
#89
the worst could happen , he could loose his job
bravely he took the appropriate decision and got Lanrezac sacked for having been right all along
Joffre , under his Santa Claus appearance is one of the most despicable commander the French had
Well, you're right about Joffre's downsides. They did catch up with him in 1915, and led to his retirement.

But to his credit he DID recognize that his own plans for an attack in the east HAD failed, and IN TIME to do something about the situation. Could have been worse consequently.

He also had the considerable advantage, when talking to skittish politicians, of exuding that famous imperturbable calm, no matter what was going on. (Could have been a useful quality in French GHQ in 1940 also.)

But Lanrezac was right, got the silken cord undeservedly and mostly just because of Joffre's ego.