In Flanders’ muddied maze
On 10 October, Generals Sir John French and Ferdinand Foch met in Doullens, seemingly unaware that Lille was now at the mercy of the first German force to arrive there in strength. They appeared to assume either that the Germans had no designs on the city or that any German force strong enough to pose a threat was too far away, for they agreed on a manoeuvre whereby the BEF would swing north of Lille towards the city, which would – if Lille was occupied by Germans – expose the British flank. It was, in any case, a manoeuvre that never happened – thanks to the demands placed on them by the scale of the German offensive in Belgium. The fighting that ensued in French Flanders in October 1914 fell into two phases:
1 the confused skirmishing for position and territory that went on for a week after the German capture of Lille, and
2 the set-piece infantry engagements that followed the German offensive of 20 October.