Battle of Charleroi
Overview
 
The Battle of Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

, or the Battle of the Sambre
Sambre
The Sambre is a river in northern France and Wallonia, southern Belgium, left tributary of the Meuse River. The ancient Romans called the river Sabis.-Course:...

 (1914), was fought on 21 August 1914, between French and German forces and was part of the Battle of the Frontiers
Battle of the Frontiers
The Battle of the Frontiers was a series of battles fought along the eastern frontier of France and in southern Belgium shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The battles represented a collision between the military strategies of the French Plan XVII and the German Schlieffen Plan...

. The French were planning an attack across the Sambre River, when the Germans launched an attack of their own. The Germans were victorious.
By 20 August, Lanrezac's Fifth Army had begun to concentrate on a 40-km front along the Sambre, centred on Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

 and extending east to the Belgian fortress of Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

, or the Battle of the Sambre
Sambre
The Sambre is a river in northern France and Wallonia, southern Belgium, left tributary of the Meuse River. The ancient Romans called the river Sabis.-Course:...

 (1914), was fought on 21 August 1914, between French and German forces and was part of the Battle of the Frontiers
Battle of the Frontiers
The Battle of the Frontiers was a series of battles fought along the eastern frontier of France and in southern Belgium shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The battles represented a collision between the military strategies of the French Plan XVII and the German Schlieffen Plan...

. The French were planning an attack across the Sambre River, when the Germans launched an attack of their own. The Germans were victorious.

Battle of Charleroi

By 20 August, Lanrezac's Fifth Army had begun to concentrate on a 40-km front along the Sambre, centred on Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

 and extending east to the Belgian fortress of Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

. On his left, the Cavalry Corps of General Sordet linked the Fifth Army with the British Expeditionary Force at Mons
Mons
Mons is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut, of which it is the capital. The Mons municipality includes the old communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour , Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles,...

. Lanrezac's army of 15 divisions, weakened by the transfer of troops to Lorraine, was confronted by the 38 German divisions from the Second Army
German Second Army
The 2nd Army was a World War I and World War II field army.-First World War:The 2nd Army during World War I, fought on the Western Front and took part in the Schlieffen Plan offensive against France and Belgium in August 1914...

 (General Karl von Bülow
Karl von Bülow
Karl von Bülow was a German Field Marshal commanding the German 2nd Army during World War I from 1914 to 1915.-Biography:...

) and Third Army
German Third Army
The 3rd Army was a German field army that fought during :World War I and :World War II.-World War I:Upon the mobilization Max von Hausen was given command of the 3rd Army which mainly consisted of Saxons. The army participated in the battle of the Frontiers, mainly in the battles of Dinant and...

 moving south-west.

Although Lanrezac knew retreat to be necessary from the beginning of the war and warned against the danger of the German sweep through Belgium, his superior, General Joseph Joffre
Joseph Joffre
Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre OM was a French general during World War I. He is most known for regrouping the retreating allied armies to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne in 1914. His popularity led to his nickname Papa Joffre.-Biography:Joffre was born in...

, believed that France should follow the offensive Plan XVII
Plan XVII
Plan XVII was the name of a "scheme of mobilization and concentration" that was adopted by the French General Staff in 1913, to be put into effect by the French Army in the event of war between France and Germany but was not ‘a prescribed narrative for the campaign’ or battle...

, regardless of what happened in Belgium, and discounted Lanrezac's warnings and ordered Lanrezac to attack across the Sambre. Before Lanrezac could act on the morning of 21 August, the German Second Army launched the Battle of Charleroi with assaults across the Sambre, establishing two bridgehead
Bridgehead
A bridgehead is a High Middle Ages military term, which antedating the invention of cannons was in the original meaning expressly a referent term to the military fortification that protects the end of a bridge...

s which the French, lacking artillery, were unable to reduce. Bülow attacked again on 22 August with three corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 against the entire Fifth Army front. Fighting continued on 23 August when the French centre around Charleroi began to fall back.

Meanwhile the German Third Army had crossed the Meuse and launched a frontal attack against the French right, held by a corps commanded by General Louis Franchet d'Esperey. The Third Army attack threatened to cut off Lanrezac's line of retreat but Franchet d'Esperey's force stopped the German advance and delivered a successful counter-attack. However, with the evacuation of Namur and news of the French Fourth Army retreating from the Ardennes, Lanrezac ordered a withdrawal lest he be encircled and cut of from the rest of the French army.

Aftermath

Lanrezac's retreat after the Battle of Charleroi arguably saved the French army from decisive defeat as it prevented the much sought envelopment of the Schlieffen plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

. After fighting another defensive action in the Battle of St. Quentin
Battle of St. Quentin (1914)
The Battle of St. Quentin was fought during World War I.On the night of 26 August 1914, the Allies withdrew from Le Cateau to St...

, the French were pushed to within miles of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, but the line held at the sacrifice of Lanrezac's career.
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