Skip to main content

La Bataille du Nord...

La Bataille du Nord...

Unknown printmaker
La Bataille du Nord…
The Battle of the North. The exploits of our marine fusiliers
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 19 from the series La Grande Guerre .

After the Battle of Marne (6-12 September 1914) the German army was driven north of the river Aisne, and a series of manoeuvres known as the ‘Race to the Sea’ began. This was not literally a race to the coast, but rather the name given to the march northwards, as each side tried to outpace the other in an effort to surround the enemy’s marching wing.

The marine brigade was a unit of the French navy deployed to help the Belgian army retreating after Germany’s occupation of Antwerp, and to protect the strategic port of Dunkirk. The print’s caption boasts of the success of a detachment of riflemen, who led a surprise attack against German forces during nightfall, and were victorious despite their inferior number. The success of the regiment was only short-lived. On 16 October fighting continued at Diksmuide and fortunes turned; the French navy suffered heavy losses.

Black printing ink has been applied liberally to evoke the night-time scene; the highlights, particularly on the barbed wire at the bottom left of the image, have been created by scraping away ink from the surface of the lithographic stone

The French caption with English translation:

LA BATAILLE DU NORD. LES PROUESSES DE NOS FUSILIERS MARINS. Plus d’une fois, pendant la bataille du Nord, nos marins ont accompli de jolis exploits. La nuit de 9 au 10 Octobre 1914 la brigade de fusiliers marins a été engagée contre des forces allemandes très supérieures en nombre. Voici comment un détachement de fusiliers put réussie à surprendre l’ennemi. Dans la journée du 9 Octobre eu lieu un violent combat dans les tranchées, à la chute du jour la bataille se calma. Nos mains profitèrent de la nuit pour préparer savamment une attaque en surprise. Au petit jour, un détachement de fusiliers s’avança en rampant jusqu’au camp ennemi. Ils supprimèrent en silence les sentinelles avançées et se jettèrent impétueusement à la baîonnette sur les Allemands à demi-éveillés qui n’eurent pas le temps de se défendre_

Battle of the North. The exploits of our marine fusiliers.
More than once during the Battle of the North, our sailors have carried off successful exploits. The night of the 9 to 10 October 1914 the fusilier brigade was brought against German forces far superior in number. Here’s how a successful detachment of fusiliers could surprise the enemy: In the 9th October a violent fight in the trenches took place; at nightfall the battle subsided. Our sailors took advantage of the night to prepare carefully a surprise attack. At dawn a detachment of riflemen crawled to the enemy camP. In silence they suppressed the sentries and threw themselves impetuously with bayonets on the half-awake Germans, who had no time to defend themselves.


University of Cambridge Museums logo
Arts Council England Logo
Research England logo
The Technology Partnership logo
Brewin Dolphin Logo