Beware of Boche hypocrisy
The years "1914" and "1918," astride the phrase "they shall not pass," refers to the two battles in which the French held off German advances at the river Marne.
In the poster, a Marne defender warns French civilians against a new "peace offensive," the Germans' sudden willingness to pursue a negotiated peace rather than face the invasion of Germany by Allied forces. The solider warns war-weary French citizens to remain strong and distrust German motives.
In the First Battle of the Marne, Sept. 6-9, 1914, advancing German forces chose not to move westward around Paris and attempt to capture the city, instead crossing the Marne river and pushing against the French center. This decision exposed General Alexander von Kluck's right flank to an eastward push form Paris by the new French Sixth Army. By turning his forces westward to meet this attack, Kluck inadvertently opened a thirty mile gap between the German First and Second Armies which was exploited by counter-attacking French forces under General Joseph Joffre, resulting in the halting and turning back of the German advance.
In March of 1918, the Germans launched a series of attacks, dubbed the "Peace Offensive," designed to break the deadlock on the Western Front before America's entry into the war could shift the advantage to the Allies. A successful thrust in late May smashed through the French Sixth Army and again put German troops on the Marne, bringing Paris within the range of German heavy artillery and causing as many as a million citizens to flee the city. On July 15th, General Erich Ludendorff moved thirty-five divisions of exhausted German troops, many suffering from the rampant flu epidemic, across the Marne. In what would be the Germans' final offensive of the war, four French Armies, with support from fresh and untested American forces, gave ground but eventually held and pushed back the German attack. The Second Battle of the Marne then saw a successful Allied counter-attack on July 18th that forced the Germans from the Marne for the last time. By early August the battle was over, and the tide on the Western Front had turned in the Allies favor.
French patrol on the Marne front.
Photo courtesy of the Photos of the Great War Web site.
Used with permission.