How important was the German General Staff

The Battle of the Marne in 1914

In August 1914, the German and French soldiers went to war with almost the same headgear as they were worn in the Franco-German War of 1870/71: The German infantryman wore a “helmet with a tip” made of pressed leather, a Variant of the so-called Pickelhaube, which was introduced into the Prussian army in 1843 and soon became its trademark. The eye-catching yellow or white metal trim of the helmet has been covered by a protective fabric cover since the end of the 19th century. The helmet shown here belonged to a soldier of the 117th Infantry Regiment (Grand Duchess Infantry Body Regiment, 3rd Grand Ducal Hessian) who took part in the fighting on the Marne in September 1914.

In September 1914 five German armies stood between Paris and Verdun. In contrast to the plan of attack drawn up by Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, the German troops had not advanced as far as the Channel coast, but had already swung east of Paris to the south. On the Marne they encountered a British-French force hastily assembled to defend Paris. The Entente had decided on a counter-offensive between Paris and Verdun in order to regain the military initiative. The surprising counterattack created a gap about 40 kilometers wide between the German 1st and 2nd Armies. When the Allied units pushed into this gap on September 8, the Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke gave the order to stop the battle. The German troops withdrew around 80 kilometers behind the Aisne, the British-French troops followed hesitantly. On September 11th, the other German armies of the right wing received the order to retreat.

The French soldiers opposing the German troops in the Battle of the Marne, including those of the 91st Infantry Regiment, wore red kepis as headgear. This light cap, originally intended for service in the North African colonies, was introduced into the French army in the mid-19th century and became a characteristic part of the uniform. In order to hide the bright red color that was visible from afar in the field, blue protective covers were put on during the war.

German leather helmets and French fabric kepi turned out to be completely unsuitable for the new kind of war. After the German advance on Paris was stopped in the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 - the French spoke of the "miracle on the Marne" - both sides began digging trenches and building shelters Continuous fire the action. The number of soldiers killed or seriously wounded by rifle shots and shrapnel was so high in the first months of the war that effective protection was quickly sought. In 1915, the French army was the first to introduce a steel helmet, followed by the German army in 1916.