The Chemin des Dames had fallen so rapidly on the 27th
of May that it was natural that the Germans assumed that a hole had been
pierced in the French defences and that the war of movement dream was now
The divisions in the centre of the breakthrough point
were marching through inhabited, undamaged villages, something not experienced
by the soldiers since 1914.
The Aisne and Vesle
were behind them. 20 000 prisoners taken, mountains of captured equipment,
enemy resistance remained weak.
On the flanks the situation was rather different.
To the west the French defended Soissons and its surrounding heights
tenaciously. In spite of the force of the German attack they held the essential
hub of traffic until the 29th.
To the east where the divisions of the 1st Armee were
fighting the French resisted offensively on the Vesle and the German hopes of
On the 30th of May the German centre approached the Marne but as long as the flanks could not keep up the
offensive was doomed.
A decisive victory at Soissons was essential as only from there
could the enemy forces at Noyon be attacked, clearing the way for the planned
southward thrust of the 18th Army.
On the 30th of May the attack on Soissons
was widened to include two further Armee Korps but it took an enormous effort
to reach even the eastern edge of the forest of Villers Cotteret.
The fighting inside the forest as well as in the forest of Retz bogged down as the French pumped
their reserves into the woods.
In the centre the troops reached the Marne
and managed to cross at Chateau Thierry where they managed to establish a
bridgehead. It served little purpose, with the woods filled with French
soldiers on one flank and the Bastion of Rheims on the other the bridgehead was
of little value. The determination and will of the attackers was able to carry
The offensive lasted 18 days although the advance had
stopped on the 4th day. The 30 planned divisions had been increased to 51 and
still the offensive had failed. As with the previous two offensives it had come
undone on the flanks. The breakthrough in the centre had come to within 75 km
of Paris but
had been a wasted effort.
General von Borries, writing after the war, summed the
offensive up by saying "The offensive was a superb achievement. The high
command and men are not to blame that after they had pierced the enemy defences
and reached the open ground beyond, they bogged down, held back by the heavy
weights on the flanks which they were unable to shake off."
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