The French Official Account
The Associated Press received in London on March 5, 1915, an official French historical review of the operations in the western theatre of war from its beginning up to the end of January, the first six months, which in terseness and dramatic power will rank among the world’s most important military documents. The first chapter of the review was released for publication by The Associated Press on March 16 and appears below. It is one of those documents, rare in military annals, that frankly confesses a succession of initial reverses and official incompetence, only retrieved by exercise of the utmost skill in retreat.
THE FRENCH SETBACKS IN AUGUST.
The first month of the campaign began with successes and finished with defeats for the French troops. Under what circumstances did these come about?
Our plan of concentration had foreseen the possibility of two principal actions, one on the right between the Vosges and the Moselle, the other on the left to the north of Verdun-Toul line, this double possibility involving the eventual variation of our transport. On Aug. 2, owing to the Germans passing through Belgium, our concentration was substantially modified by General Joffre in order that our principal effort might be directed to the north.
From the first week in August it was apparent that the length of time required for the British Army to begin to move would delay our action in connection with it. This delay is one of the reasons which explain our failures at the end of August.
Awaiting the moment when the operations in the north could begin, and to prepare for it by retaining in Alsace the greatest possible number of German forces, the General in Chief ordered our troops to occupy Mulhouse, (Muelhousen,) to cut the bridges of the Rhine at Huningue and below, and then to flank the attack of our troops, operating in Lorraine.
This operation was badly carried out by a leader who was at once relieved of his command. Our troops, after having carried Mulhouse, lost it and were thrown back on Belfort. The work had, therefore, to be recommenced afresh, and this was done from Aug. 14 under a new command.
Mulhouse was taken on the 19th, after a brilliant fight at Dornach. Twenty-four guns were captured from the enemy. On the 20th we held the approaches to Colmar, both by the plain and by the Vosges. The enemy had undergone enormous losses and abandoned great stores of shells and forage, but from this moment what was happening in Lorraine and on our left prevented us from carrying our successes further, for our troops in Alsace were needed elsewhere. On Aug. 28 the Alsace army was broken up, only a small part remaining to hold the region of Thann and the Vosges.