Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Lonesome Memorials: #3
The First Shot of the Battle of the Marne

Site of the First Shot of the Battle of the Marne

Both the German and French armies intended to launch new offensives on 6 September 1914, their initial operational schemes having been abandoned. In their pre-attack maneuvering, however, their advance units brushed each other northeast of Paris between the villages of Villeroy and Monthyon to the north.  German forces which had a higher and better view of the surrounding countryside spotted their advesaries first and requested permission to open fire on the French units around Villeroy that seemed to be advancing—surprisingly—from Paris.  

A German 77 Moving into Position

A German 77mm field gun positioned about a mile north of Monthyon fired the first shot.  Today there is a marker on the site that is significant beyond its humble appearance. It marks the opening of the most important battle of the Great War, the First Battle of the Marne,  the struggle that would guarantee that there would be no quick victory in 1914.

Click on Image to Enlarge

From this place on September 5, 1914 at 12:30 p.m. was fired by a German 77 gun the first shell which marked the beginning of the Battle of the Marne.

The memorial is very hard to find, but it is truly worth a visit.  I took my fall 2014 Centennial tour there, and I could tell while we were driving away the bus was unusually quiet and the group had been moved by the visit.  To read the account of how this most important battle of  the Great War accidentally broke out a day early, read our account HERE.  

How to Get There. First go to the main intersection in Monthyon, where the D97 and N330 cross. Head north on N330 about 1.1 miles and look for an unpaved road on the left with a gate across it. The coordinates are 49.022221, 2.821867. Park your car at the gate and walk west about a quarter mile to the marker. I would pair a visit to the cemetery just outside the village of Villeroy where the first French casualties of the battle are buried.  It's 3.25 miles as the crow flies southwest of the First Shot marker near the intersection of D27 and D129. The coordinates are: 48.980608, 2.801616.

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