Who's Who - Karl von Bulow

Karl von Bulow Field Marshal Karl von Bulow (1846-1921) was born on 24 April 1846.  Following in the tradition of his father and grandfather, von Bulow was a veteran of the Prussian army by the time war was declared in August 1914, having seen action in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

At the start of the First World War von Bulow was tasked with command of the German Second Army for the invasion of Belgium that same month.  In order to ensure that the German attack and advance through Belgium proceeded according to the Schlieffen Plan, von Bulow was further given control over First and Third Armies on 9 August, an arrangement that had to be abandoned eight days later following clashes between von Bulow, who was cautious by nature, and the aggressive commander of First Army, von Kluck.

During that first month von Bulow's forces achieved great success by capturing the fortress of Namur on 22-23 August, and by defeating French General Lanrezac's Fifth Army at the Battle of Charleroi on 23-24 August, further driving Lanrezac's forces back to Guise-Saint Quentin on 29-30 August.

A somewhat pessimistic commander, von Bulow refused to exploit these successes before the First Battle of the Marne unless he was given immediate support by First Army - which was in actual fact 50 km to the west of Second Army.  He nevertheless ordered von Kluck to turn towards him, meanwhile crossing the Marne on 4 September.

The decision by von Bulow to order the aggressive von Kluck to turn ultimately merely served to expose the latter's army to flank counter-attacks from French and British on 6 September at the Battle of the Marne.  Von Bulow consequently ordered a withdrawal on 9 September, afraid of a French breakthrough, his forces pulling back to the Aisne.

Today, von Bulow is generally held responsible for the German defeat at the First Battle of the Marne.  Although promoted to Field Marshal in January 1915 he was obliged to leave the front two months later following a heart attack, retiring entirely from the army in 1916.

Karl von Bulow died in Berlin on 31 August 1921.

German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner.  British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.

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