Central Powers Special Turn
Mike Dorn’s Central Powers began their standard scenario attack against my Entente Sunday night; a report of the surprise turn follows:
A full stack of German rifle troops pushed across the river east of Liege, accepting fatigue in exchange for a better position for the attack and a better position to advance from later if the fortress held out.
German cavalry overan Bruxelles and a division ended up in each hex immediately north and west of the city, including placing a ZOC behind Namur.
Six German rifle divisions, three regiments of light troops, and all three siege battalions forced marched through the Ardennes to attack Namur from across the river, despite significant fatigue.
In combat at Liege, the Germans turned disaster into triumph. Hind/Lud failed to inspire the attack and a pair or engineer regiments immolated themselves in a special attack attempt, but other engineers succeeded in their special attack. What would have been a DL was thus turned into DD and the Germans seized both fortress and a bit of Belgian artillery (EqPts).
In front of Namur, things turned out both better and worse for the Germans. Both recon aircraft failed in their missions, but Hind/Lud and German morale kept the DRM even. A prolifigate expenditure of ammunition allowed the attack to go in at 6:1 and the Germans lost a light regiment to the Belgian fortress division in a DX. The fortress held for now but is isolated and will probably fall to overrun in the German movement phase.
I entered the II August 1914 turn of our OT grand campaign game greatly concerned that the game was broken and that the results of the Plan 17 rules might all but guarantee a lost war for the French; my opponent shared many specific concerns. Of particular note, the rules for units within four hexes of 1918 (the center hex of Lorraine) are absolutely savage in their implications – the French are very limited in their formation of a reserve force in the very center of the front and their front line forces seem certain to immolate themselves against extremely strong German defenses. Also of note, French reinforcements for the turn are far less than French losses certainly will be for any but the most extraordinary of outcomes – and outcomes that extraordinary would also condemn the French to continuing Plan 17, a different disaster and probably one worse than simply having a couple of AE combat results. My first real plan, then, was to make a series of twenty individual suicide attacks by the worst available French divisions while retaining the remainder of French forces un-blooded and available for the defense; that would end Plan 17 without too horribly unhinging the French position.
Fortunately, my plans changed to something at least a bit more historically plausible. Had I gone with my first plan I also would have simply scrapped the game and decided to play something less nonsensical. In this game, the French decided to attempt a series of attacks that had real chances of success. Depending upon the outcomes of those attacks, the French would then finish out Plan 17 with the requisite number of single division “pinning attacks“ on the flanks of the major attacks.
The Entente quest for the evening thus became one to find German weak spots and attack them while simultaneously preparing to weather the inevitable hurricane of onrushing German forces. From the coast to the mountains, the Germans were arranged as described in the last game report. Single cavalry divisions with three or four fatigue blanketed the area around Bruxelles. A massive infantry and siege gun force faced the weakened Namur from across the river toward Luxemburg. A screen of single German reserve divisions ran along the roughest terrain in the Ardennes from the siege train into central Luxemburg. From there, massive German forces protected the frontier from Luxemburg city and the important resource centers of the area down to the far tip of Lorraine, with one important exception. Beyond Lorraine for about fifty miles, approximately a reserve division per eight miles of front defended amidst wooded rough terrain. Neu Breisach then sat at a corner in the line where the Germans began to defend well behind the frontier; the fortress itself and the clear valley toward Switzerland were massively garrisoned before the line continued with much weaker but still nearly unassailable forces in heavily fortified positions in rugged terrain behind the Rhine River all the way to the Swiss border. Of note, the important exception to otherwise practically invulnerable German defenses in Lorraine was the furthest tip of the province jutting into France. That salient, 1819, backed by the massively garrisoned fortress of Metz, was deliberately garrisoned by only three reserve divisions, a static brigade, and a strong heavy artillery regiment; it was a lure.
Belgian forces began the Entente move in three ways. First, a fortress division slid out of St. Niklaas westward to extend the Belgian Army‘s zone of control and thus inhibit further German movement. Second, the main Belgian force in St. Niklaas and Antwerp arranged themselves in an offensive posture. In Antwerp sufficient forces for a maximum odds attack against the immediately adjacent Bavarian cavalry division remained to garrison the fortress and carry out that attack. In St. Niklaas, the remaining Belgians – approximately half – prepared to attack across the river against the other adjacent German cavalry division. Finally, the rifle brigade and manpower point isolated in Namur moved out of the fortress; the rifle brigade accelerated and used the French rail net to get safely into the French rear area but the manpower point managed only to march a few miles out of the fortress.
British forces continued the Entente movement phase in two ways. All available British forces in the United Kingdom loaded onto transports and moved to Le Havre before using French rail capacity to catch up to the already arrived majority of the British Expeditionary Force. Meanwhile, in France, the combat elements of the BEF massed largely at 0823 but with a strong corps closer to danger and behind a river barrier at 0723. In coordination with French forces from the Paris area, this force constitutes a useful second third line of defenses behind French forces in Belgium and the French fortresses of Lille and Maubeuge.
Given the weight of fielded forces and the restrictions on Belgian actions imposed by Belgian political leadership, by far the most important events on the Western Front during August 1914 involved German and French forces. The French high command, obsessed with recovering Lorraine, centered its planning upon that province and treated the front running both toward the English Channel and the Alps as secondary efforts. Intelligence duly reported German weakness west of Metz in 1819 and three French corps massed to attack that position; about half a dozen French units either necessary for the attack or unable to move anywhere else were even overcrowded into the assembly areas to be used for the attack. That concentration of force then left the remainder of the Lorraine front bereft of French forces adequate for attacks against literally dozens of German divisions massed forward against the remainder of the Franco-German border in Lorraine; those sections of the French front were left with second- and third- line forces probably inadequate even to hold in the defense. This was the potentially disastrous weakness of this French plan: if inadequate advances were made elsewhere along the front, a series of offensively impotent French forces would be required by political considerations to assault vastly superior enemy forces and, in their dying, would leave the road to central France essentially devoid of defensive forces.
In support of the grand French offensive into Lorraine, French forces on both wings of the front would also take the offensive in selected locations. Two corps of moderately potent French forces massed to attack from the north through wooded rough terrain toward Neu Breisach. In the Ardennes, two modest corps (one on the Lorraine front but attacking northeastward rather than into the sacred province) formed to attack a division of Germans screening that section of the front. The remainder of Entente offensive action was to be against the thinly spread and exhausted German cavalry force around Bruxelles. Belgian forces would act as a partial anvil while second- and third- line French divisions from the deep interior railed forward to hit the cavalry head on from around Lille. The real punch, though, and the zone of control exerting element that would hinder any German withdrawals, was a corps of French Fifth Army attacking from between Namur and Maubeuge.
Defensively, French forces took several actions of note. The strongest available French heavy cavalry division pushed through patrols and artillery fire to get into Namur, hopefully proofing that fortress against overrun. Portions of French Fifth Army moved to create a continuous but weak defensive line connecting Namur with French forces forming a noticeably stronger but probably insufficient line in the Ardennes. Nearer Switzerland, French forces moved forward to take advantage of mountainous terrain and the Rhine River to hold in some force a few hundred square miles of German territory on the Swiss border. Between Lorraine and that small area of conquest, French forces massed forward on the border not because they believe that they can hold back any attack but because they know for certain that falling back would only create an even longer, weaker line: the fortresses are too few and too weakly held to make a line based upon them an attractive option.
Plans completed and movements begun, the guns began to sound all along the front. In the face of appalling losses, the French high command quickly realized the tactical lethality of new weapons and tactics and, despite making some progress and winning some victories, called a brief halt to offensive operations. In this way, Plan 17 ended before a great many inevitable disasters could get fairly beyond their start lines.
The centerpiece of French war plans, the assault into Lorraine begun west of Metz at 1819, was the first pyrrhic victory of the war. Under cover of prolific ammunition expenditure by supporting artillery (spent RP) and urged onward by General Foch, who otherwise did yeoman service in rousing the men to great valor (Foch contributed +1 DRM), a French cavalry division charged in a column of battalion lines into a storm of perfectly accurate German artillery (eliminated in cavalry effects attempt) and was destroyed. That small catastrophe did not deter the French riflemen however, as they sliced in from both flanks of the salient and sent the ammunition starved (refused to spend RP so that attack went in at 6:1 instead of 5:1) Germans reeling in retreat despite numerous nests of stubborn resistance (DR result converted to HX). Three French rifle divisions and the cavalry cadre were hacked apart in the inferno (five total Plan 17 points in this battle). The victorious advance greatly cheered crowds in the streets of Paris and Bordeaux (20 morale point bonus). (Forces lost: German 2x 10*-12-5 rifle XXs and 9*-11-5 rifle XX to cadre, 7-8-5 foot art II b/w and 2*-3-4 stc X w/b both destroyed; French 7*-4-7 cav XX totally destroyed and 3x 8*-11-5 rifle XXs to cadre)
The attack north of Neu Breisach into 2218 demonstrated the next results of the Entente offensive. Here again a French cavalry division self-eliminated in an attempted charge and here too French riflemen and artillerymen succeeded with the assistance of massive ammunition expenditure, but in this case the attack was strictly frontal, further French cavalry assisted the attack, and resistance was even fiercer. In the end, German forces that might have retreated safely instead stubbornly clung to the hills and gullies despite running short of ammunition (again refused to spend a RP for defense) until overwhelmed in close combat (DR converted to EX in 6:1). Two German cadres reeled back in flight but left behind them the total destruction of two French cavalry divisions and the reduction to cadre of three rifle divisions (six more Plan 17 points). (Forces lost: German 10*-13-5 rifle XX and 9*-12-5 rifle XX both to cadre; French 6*-3-7 and 5*-2-7 cav XX both totally destroyed, 8*-11-5 rifle XX and 2x 7*-10-5 rifle XXs all to cadre)
The next offensive to go off was in the Ardennes, 1418. Proving the adage that the third time is just as good/bad as the first two, another French cavalry division lost most of its men in fruitless cavalry charges. Also standard were the overwhelming French firepower and paucity of German response. Finally in pattern, a German division fought stubbornly in place when it could have retreated more easily (DR converted to EX on 6:1); in this battle they were joined in destruction by the French cavalry cadre, an engineer regiment, and the entirety of yet another French cavalry division and cadre (4 more Plan 17 points, 15 total). The only new elements of this battle were the absence of Foch‘s personal influence (he was apparently present in person at the other battle and couldn‘t be bothered with this one) and the lack of a French advance after combat so that the Germans actually held their position. (Forces lost: German 9*-11-5 rifle XX to cadre; French 6*-3-7 cav XX totally destroyed, 7*-4-7 cav XX to cadre, 1-5 eng III destroyed)
The remainder of the serious combat happened in Belgium, in a series of cavalry skirmishes, ambushes, and botched frontal attacks. In 0920, French Fifth Army started off with a bang, nearly destroying the strongest German cavalry division by psychologically pinning it with infantry probes and then almost encircling it with cavalry (DR converted to EX on 6:1 after a failed attempt to retreat before combat). One French cavalry division was totally destroyed in this effort (two more Plan 17 points). (Forces lost: German 12*-8-7 cav XX to cadre; French 7*-4-7 cav XX totally destroyed)
Less successfully, Belgian forces advanced only half-heartedly to attack a weak German cavalry division at 0720, leaving a second- and a third- line French divisions to be destroyed in a series of skillful ambushes and subsequent well-exploited routs (AQ on 6:1 -2 for 2 more Plan 17 points; this division couldn‘t retreat before combat due to ZOC). (Forces lost: French 6*-9-5 rifle XX and 3*-6-4 rifle XX both totally destroyed)
Better coordination allowed the operational plan to work in one instance, though, as a German cavalry division in 0820 was forced to retreat by French attack and subsequently disintegrated as the troops sought safe escape routes through a web of French company-sized ambushes (DR stayed a DR on 6:1). (Forces lost: German 10*-6-7 cav XX to cadre)
Finally, the Bavarian cavalry facing Antwerp retreated in the face of a more serious Belgian advance from that fortress.
In one final combat note, the commander of a French third-line division became too zealous in carrying out his orders to protect the line of communications into Namur. Instead of remaining on the defensive, he sent his division to slaughter across a river into 1119 against German forces that outnumbered him probably fifty to one (the 20th Plan 17 point). That commander was relieved, of course, but one suspects that the authors of Plan 17 will end up promoted and decorated rather than disgraced. This disaster shocked the high command finally out of its cult of the mindless offensive and caused the calling off of a number of what would have been equally horribly disastrous attacks. (Forces lost: French 3*-6-4 rifle XX)
Most armies from the German left and center spent a day to reorient to recent events and take a breath before the imminent plunge back to carnage; only the activation of 7th Army broke the pattern. After French forces unexpectedly advanced into the Vosges Mountains toward the new fortress of Neu Breisach, the commander of 7th German Army stirred from his slumber, called out his fortress garrison, and quickly organized a counterattack. A three-sided counteroffensive pushed against the exposed salient of French forces comprised of a cavalry division and a fortress brigade, plus a rifle brigade that hung on its limb without even the support of any artillery. The French suffered severely but managed to hold their positions and shred the German advanced guard companies in the process. The positional table at 9:1 -2 delivered a DX; French forces lost the entirety of 6*-3-7 cavalry division versus the German loss of a 3-4-7 mtn jgr regiment. No resource points were spent on either side in this or any other battle during this reaction phase.
There was no such vacation from widespread carnage between the Ardennes Forest and Ghent; a mass of German forces advanced to contact on that hard-fought plain. First to go down were a pair of French third-line divisions in 0820, guarding the open flank of the French line. German forces rolled forward from the Liege area to join a few exhausted cavalry divisions in an 8:1 attack reduced to 6:1 by fatigue (the cavalry bumped up the odds but then reduced them back by their fatigue – and were thus eligible to die in any exchange). The reservists fought too bravely and ignored orders to fall back when the attack began to overrun their positions (DH converted to HX). French losses: 2x 3*-6-4 rifle divisions. German losses: 10*-6-7 cavalry division to cadre.
As their flank guards collapsed almost as soon as they were hit, neighboring French forces in 0920 took steps to secure their own lines of communication before they too could be destroyed by the onrushing German horde. A French cavalry division saw the odds written on the wall and retreated before combat – its presence could not help the defense – while a lone first-line rifle division covered its departure. Despite the personal presence of Ludendorf, this time too a stubborn French defense stayed too long but hammered vulnerable German cavalry while dying. Only the cadre of the French 8*-11-5 rifle division escaped while the cadre of a German 10*-6-7 cavalry division joined its friends in camping on the field of victory (DR converted to HX).
The loss of these two French positions left the Entente line of communication into the Belgian fortress of Namur harassed, though not cut, just as the second German assault on that place began to hit with overwhelming force. Despite hideous danger, the lone French cavalry division tried to escape the fortress before becoming seriously engaged only to get drawn back into the fixed positions by the pleas of the Belgian commander and some political pressure from Paris. Despite the lack of interest demonstrated by Ludendorf in this forgone conclusion, a lone engineer regiment and a squadron of aircraft both contributed noticeably to the clockwork precision of the attack. The artistically perfect assault could not be held even with the French and the second of two 9:1 combats against fortresses led to another DD result after which the French cavalry cadre was destroyed while routing through German patrols and artillery fire. Belgian forces suffered the loss of their static artillery brigade; the French lost their best cavalry division (8*-5-7); the Germans lost nothing but time.
Battle of Kingston
Even as those events unfolded on land, the High Seas Fleet put to sea in an effort to find some advantage before the Grand Fleet could grow even larger. At first, Kingston looked like a tempting target; there would be time for two bombardments and probably thirty or forty morale points of damage if the Grand Fleet stayed away. The British Admiralty inadvertently connived in this hideous plan at the outbreak of war by bringing two battleship squadrons and some armored cruisers down to join the Channel Fleet; that way both the Channel and Grand Fleets would be slightly superior to the Germans in the event of any sortie. This was just the opportunity that the German admiral was lusting after; he knew that in his hands an equal instrument would yield utterly superior results (actually, the British admiral knew the same thing – I‘ve seen my opponent roll dice).
At first things went only poorly for the British. A few failed danger zone rolls are to be expected when I roll dice. Five one in three chances should only yield one success when the rolling is mine. The German BC took one hit from the Kingston battery before it was silenced.
Then things continued only poorly for the British. The slightly stronger Grand Fleet (one more battleship squadron and one less pre-dreadnought squadron plus battlecruisers instead of armored cruisers) stayed in its Scottish harbor while the Channel Fleet sought out the Germans in the Kingston estuary. The Germans patiently cruised up and down the waterfront as the Channel Fleet first sailed and later reacted again to reach the High Seas Fleet. At least the German submarines remained as blind as those of the Royal Navy.
It wasn‘t a bad plan, really. Coastal combat set the fight to start at medium range where five British pre-dreadnought squadrons and two armored cruiser squadrons could contribute much more than their like three and one German cousins. In lighter craft, the Germans deployed five destroyer flotilla and an obsolete cruiser squadron as against one stronger British destroyer flotilla and one stronger obsolete cruiser squadron – but these would only be targets at medium or long range. In modern capital ships, the Germans had their best advantage; three battleship and one battlecruiser squadrons faced two British battleship squadrons. Besides these forces, later British reaction brought a light cruiser squadron and three good destroyer flotillas into the fight just before the fight reached short (where all ships can fire) range – just in time!
Only the results turned out disastrously wrong for the British. The best German battleship squadron never missed, inflicting thirteen hits in nine shots; by contrast, the German armored cruiser squadron was never hit despite being on the receiving end of nine British shots. A British pre-dreadnought squadron (ten points) fought the German battlecruiser squadron (eight points with an equal protection rating) and was eventually sunk while inflicting only four hits on its opponent. The British armored cruiser squadrons both missed almost every shot until they were rotated up to face the German battleships, being by round eight the best remaining British units. Among the pre-dreadnoughts the Germans also did vastly better than the British, with weaker German squadrons inflicting casualties at beyond a two-to-one rate. Only in one exchange of fire did the British really do well; German destroyers inflicted about five hits in the only round of short range combat while the British scored about ten in return, about half of that by using torpedoes against battleships. The British then wanted to shorten the range even further, as all but one German destroyer was sunk as against only two British, but the Germans immediately opened and kept open the range thereafter.
By the end of the ninth round of combat, the British had had enough and finally opted to and successfully disengaged; the Germans had twice disengaged involuntarily but had immediately returned to the fight each time. Even then, the Germans could have stayed to conduct one bombardment but elected instead to fly today in order to be able to fight tomorrow; the Grand Fleet had made one reaction roll finally and was one more reaction roll from catching the bedraggled High Seas Fleet. The British ended the fight in a pathetic state and the Germans looked good only by comparison.
British casualties: 23 BB, 42 PD, 6 CA, and 2 DD (that‘s 137 morale points, a third of British starting morale)
German casualties: 15 BB, 5 BC, 6 PD, 1 CC, 5 DD (that‘s 55.5 morale points, an eighteenth of German starting morale)
Rules question/thought/plea: the bombardment table grants a bonus when shooting at certain nationalities on certain dates; the table doesn’t specify that the modifier applies only when bombarding units so that if the Germans had bombarded Kingston they would have enjoyed a bonus because it’s a British target on/before X date. Is that right and can and/or should it be changed in errata to apply only to units?
Note: I missed the rule about German BB and BC never taking additional damage; that will reduce even further the losses suffered by the Germans.
In light of the game-determining nature of the naval encounter off Kingston during the reaction phase of the Entente IIAUG14 turn, we mutually decided that the event was actually a war game and that its results would naturally mandate a revision in British plans. The Royal Navy, as nervous about the vulnerability of its coastal cities as the uselessness of its pre-dreadnought battleships, embarked upon a more defensive plan during the opening days of this version of the war. Kingston, the east coast city most easily protected by mines, received a barrage of four points in the two hexes of its entrance to the sea. The Channel Fleet detached a few PDs to the Grand Fleet but absorbed a few small ships from the southeastern ports to make up an effective escort for forthcoming convoys from Britain to France. The Grand Fleet, slightly augmented, moved to Edinburgh, from which it could more easily protect the east coast without wholly losing the chance to engage Germans going north around Scotland.
The High Seas Fleet, upon examining the latest arrangements, simply stayed in port. There was discussion of running the Channel and bombarding a west coast port, but such an action seemed rash and risky while there was still a chance for the army to win the war in Paris. Any idea of attacking Kingston naturally faded with the minefield in the way; even an effective one-point attack on the way in could really hurt and another would be incurred during the exit. The HSF’s minesweepers could cut a channel, but more likely coast defense guns would sink the little vessels before they could do the job or a reacting British task force would do the same if the minesweepers entered the field alone. Thoughts of attacking Newcastle were little troubled by the presence of the British Expeditionary Force’s heavy artillery regiment in the city but were far more impacted by the nearby station of the Grand Fleet’s undivided battle line.
The exploitation phase of the Entente turn passed with little activity of note. A few French formations shifted along the main battle line, with a preponderance of that activity being a slipping to the left, toward the Germans rushing through Belgium. The only big change in the front during the phase was a French withdrawal from a three-hex front adjacent to the lost fortress of Namur into a two-hex front running from Maubeuge straight to 1519.
Central Powers Turn
The initial phase of the Central Powers AUG II 14 turn also passed with little activity of note. German forces replaced an engineer regiment; having only the special invasion turn’s special replacements to work with they could do little else. Entente forces replaced and rebuilt nothing at all. A few, minor German stacks in Belgium went U-1, but were forecast to be back in supply before penalties set in.
More surprisingly, the Central Powers movement phase flew by with hardly a glance. German forces cleared rail lines in Belgium and brought up forces from the rear and from the released fortress garrisons to the south to add weight to the so far unstoppable rush toward Paris. At the spearpoint, a fatigued and “weak” German corps pushed into the one empty hex of the Entente front line, northwest of the fortress of Maubeuge. Other Germans near the front shed some fatigue and piled into the frontlines to break apart the French left wing.
Despite lining up a wide array of possible battles, the Germans only attacked three targets during their combat phase. On the southern face of Lorraine, German forces clashed with French forces in 2019. Neither side expended much artillery ammunition so the attack went in at 5.9:1 (rolled up to 6:1) even for a straight-up EX result. French forces suffered 10*-13-6 rifle XX reduced to cadre and the total loss of: 0*-1-2 fort III, 4-5-5 fld art III, 2-3-7 jgr III, and 1-2-5 rifle X. German forces reduced two 14-16-5 rifle XX’s to cadre. German forces elected not to advance into the vulnerable hex after what was in any case a mere pinning attack.
Events of more importance, meanwhile, galloped along near the Belgian border. The first attack aimed to flank Maubeuge on a fourth side and, in so doing, prevent a nearby division from using reserve movement to enter the imperiled fortress. Both sides in the struggle in 1021 called upon reserve stockpiles of ammunition and the first German cavalry charge of the war was a rousing success, but Ludendorf was as usual not present when he could have been. Once again, German luck held; the 4.9:1 rolled up to 5:1 and with the +1 achieved a DR that converted to HX. French forces reduced 8*-11-5 rifle and 8*-5-7 and 7*-4-7 cavalry XX’s to cadre besides eliminating 4-5-5 fld art III. German forces merely reduced 16-18-5 rifle XX to cadre.
Typically, the Entente fortress in question suffered the worst possible result of a German attack. French reinforcements had arrived in Maubeuge and brought the fortress up to a 45 defensive strength during the Entente movement and exploitation phases, an impressive strength that simply added more graves when all was said and done. German forces, surprisingly, could only muster 132 attack factors, though that was with the siege train being disrupted for having moved and with some forces attacking around the flank of the fortress to the south. The ensuing attack thus went in at 2.9:1 which, of course, rolled up to 3:1. More impressively, a pair of German observation planes contributed a +1 for accurate reconnaissance support and spotting artillery fire. As impressive as that was a solitary engineer regiment contributing a +1, though a pair of neighbors more easily contributed another +1. Finally, Ludendorf did show up at this battle, bringing net modifiers to +2 and the combat result to a DX. French forces suffered 8*-11-5 rifle XX reduced to cadre in addition to 1-4-2 rifle XX, 2-5-2 mg X, and 2-3-5 rifle X (colonial) eliminated utterly. German forces hailed the cadre of 15-17-5 rifle XX for having survived what had killed most of the unit’s men. The fortress remains non-overrunnable but being almost encircled is sure to either fall or be completely encircled during the next Central Powers lurch forward.
The reaction phase of the player turn found the Entente quite active but nonetheless passed without combat. French armies on both wings failed reaction rolls, leaving un-fought a couple of attacks that might have gone in at better than 1:1 odds, but four French armies near Lorraine showed less lethargy. Unable to achieve anything better than suicidal odds, French forces in the center shifted positions en masse to rationalize their defenses and lean yet further toward the channel coast. British forces seemed content to remain in their positions but the Belgians sent a few formations marching west out of Antwerp and St. Niklaas to form a continuous river defensive line that will soon also be defended by field fortifications. That line, weak so far, ties-in with the fortress city of Lille to form the beginnings of an Entente defense of the channel ports and can still be strengthened before the Germans may turn toward the coast.
German forces spent their exploitation phase merely shifting slightly about the front. The wedge corps northwest of Maubeuge enjoyed reinforcements to essentially make it invulnerable to counterattack rather than pressing forward and remaining liable to being pushed back into ZOCs. The Entente can try to seal the gap during early September but barring bad rolls the Germans should be able to shatter the French with little trouble.
September dawned with weather roll five, a first look at production, and the first substantial replacement expenditures of the war. Previous to this, the Belgian high command had scrapped a few units but no other substantial replacement activity had taken place. In September, the General Joffre published orders that scrapped a wide array of the most pathetic of French units from the replacement pool; cavalry divisions were especially hard hit but their leavings will surely hearten the commanders of shattered rifle divisions in the future. In the meantime, with troops already available the French rebuilt seven first line rifle cadres to full strength and replaced a solitary engineer regiment. German forces, having taken vastly fewer losses and not yet having production available, rebuilt a pair of rifle divisions. The big news of the moment was the French decision to allocate a handful of artillery pieces to the Belgians for use in reorganizing three Belgian rifle divisions from the standard of French second line (6*-9-5) to something better than most French first line divisions (9-12-5). It seems that the Entente will be making a serious fight for the channel ports and Lille and wants the Belgians to hold solidly behind the Schelde River when the Germans finally do turn north. Entente production at factories was three each equipment and resource points.