General French at the Battle of Charleroi, Belgium, 1914 (c 1914-1918).
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Postcard, depicting General Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force at the Battle of Charleroi. In August 1914, French troops who had advanced into Belgium to counter the invading Germans were defeated in a battle centred on the town of Charleroi. The British under General French arrived too late to have any material influence on the outcome of the battle, and were in danger of being outflanked at Mons as the French units retreated. The defeat at Charleroi led to the Allies retreating and abandoning most of Belgium to German occupation. The early battles of World War I were mobile engagements, but after the German advance was stopped at the Marne in September 1914, the conflict became one of attritional static trench warfare.