The St Gond Marshes, September 1914
"From the beginning of the war, the German First, Second and Third Armies have wheeled through Belgium and Luxembourg into France. Now Paris is in sight. In a desperate attempt to stave off defeat, Joffre has created the French Ninth Army, under the command of the future generalissimo, Ferdinand Foch. He must hold the St Gond marshes against von Bulow's Second Army. Can the Moroccan Division hold on and prevent the French centre from collapsing? Desperately tired from the retreat, the French colonial soldiers prepare for one last effort to stop the German juggernaut."
So says Robert Dunlop in his introduction to the St Gond scenario that he wrote and posted to the GWSH Yahoo group files.
This scenario was fought out between Jon Harding (commanding the German Forces) and Nick and Robin Sutton (jointly commanding the French forces), in Christchurch, New Zealand in June 2008.
Some views of the battle field might help players to understand a little more about the battle. Here is a link with a couple of views of a part of the battlefield in 1914.
The battlefield seen from the east. The French are defending the southen edge of the battlefield seen on the left of the photo, while the German forces are attacking from the right. As the marshes were impassable to artillery, the command of the roads through the marsh was central to the attack and exploitation.
The French plan was to occupy the high ground seen in the centre nearest the camera, commanding the eastern road through the marshes. Two regiments were deployed on these heights, supported by a regiment of 75mm guns.
A third regiment was deployed on the high ground at the top left of the photo, supported by the second regiment of 75s. The fourth regiment of the division was held in reserve.
The German plan was to attack the high ground in the centre in order to secure the road through the marshes, and then attempt to exploit south through the village of Broussy le Grand, at the bottom left just out of view in this photo. The German comander certaibly wasn't interested in the long slow slog through the marches to the west as this would expose his troops to French defensive artillery fire for far too long.
As the German forces pushed forward, they deployed, and began to bring the defending French infantry under sustained fire. They were ably supported by several regiments of their 77mm field guns. The artillery template is placed for yet another round of fire, and suppression markers can be seen on both sides.
The numbers of French defenders can be seen thining as they progressively succomb to the weight of fire being brought to bear against them. At this stage, seeing that the position of his 1st Regiment in the high ground was looking shakey, the French commander decided to commit his reserve regiment, deployed waiting behind the French centre. Things were tense in the French command centre: would the reserves arrive in time to prop up the centre and retain the high ground, or would they be forced to continue the defence from down in the swamp and marsh?
At this stage the French commander decided to move his 3rd Regiment, defending Reuves on the French left. The German right opposite the 3rd Regiment looked tantalisingly weak and exposed, begging for an attack. But there was a long way to go, with movement of any troops seriously slowed by the marshes. This was a move of desperation, too little, too late.
The second photo shows the German troops edging forward along their command arrow to apply pressure against the last remaining French defenders, just moments before the French regiment failed its morale check and fled the field.
With the heights opened up, the German forces advanced and occupied the high ground, with their reserve committed and moving behind their leading regiments to advance on Broussy le Grand.
Where would the German invaders be held now?