Marne Street

Figure 1: An article from the Manawatu Times detailing the subdivision of the area and creation of Marne Street. Reference: Manawatu Times, Volume XL, Issue 13369, 7 April 1916, Page 6.

The creation of Marne Street came about through the need to connect newly created subdivisions between College Street and Park Road. The extension of the road involved it continuing south of Park Road, with a gentle curve west until the new street connected to the main thoroughfare of Fitzherbert Avenue. At its northern end, Marne Street was offset very slightly to the east and provided a continuation of the older Ada Street. The subdivision of the land was entrusted to Messrs Bagnall and Keeble who, in keeping with the patriotic spirit of the time and mindful of the parallel running Union Street, named to commemorate the Triple Entente’s formation to oppose Germany, bestowed the name Marne upon the new street. 

The sale of blocks running along the new street proceeded quickly, being heavily advertised in the local newspapers in May 1916 and billeted as “the first street in Palmerston North to be sewered and completed before the sections are sold”. The Palmerston North City Council permits register shows that the first house permit was issued on 19 July 1916 to a Mrs Middleton for a 3 bedroom house.


Figure 2: Palmerston North City Council Building Permit book showing the first house to be built on Marne Street in July 1916. Reference: Building Permits Register Book, Volume 1, Series 4/13/2, Ian Matheson City Archives.

About The First Battle of the Marne

Figure 3: Map showing the Schlieffen Plan, German advance towards Paris and the major battles of 1914. Reference: 'Schlieffen Plan and German invasion of 1914', URL:

The First Battle of the Marne was conducted between 6-12 September 1914, with the outcome bringing to an end the war of movement that had dominated the battlefield  since the beginning of August. This marked the end of the German advance into France and was a prelude to the trench warfare which would ensure for the next 4 years.

The German advance into France was in pursuance of the aims of the Schlieffen Plan, whose primary focus was the swift defeat of France in the west before wheeling the Germany Army to the east to face the slower mobilising Russian Army. Their progress had been rapid, having successfully beaten back Belgian, French and British forces over the battlefields of Belgium and north-eastern France. By early-September 1914 the German Army was within sight of Paris.

As the German Army neared, the defending French Fifth and Sixth Armies, as well as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), were at the point of exhaustion, having retreated continuously for 2 weeks under repeated German attack. As he neared the Marne River east of Paris, Alexander von Kluck's First Army was instructed to encircle Paris.  The French government, similarly expecting a siege and possible fall of the capital, left Paris for Bordeaux.

Marshal Joffre planned to retreat behind the Seine before counterattacking. He envisaged a battle, probably to take place around 8 September, "between the horns of Paris and Verdun." On the 6th September, Joffre authorised General Maunoury's Sixth Army, comprising 150,000 men, to attack the right flank of the German First Army. In turning to meet the French attack a 30 mile wide gap appeared in the German lines between the First and Second Army, a breach which the British and French forces were quick to exploit. While the Germans continued to attack from the 6th to the 8th of September, the allied line was saved by the now famous arrival of 6,000 French reserve infantry troops ferried from Paris in streams of taxi cabs.

Figure 4: French troops firing from a ditch in 1914, before the front line became entrenched and movement almost impossible. Reference: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Infanterie française en action [tireurs embusqués derrière un fossé]: Photographie de Presse/Agence Rol.

On the 8th September the French Fifth Army launched a surprise attack against the German Second Army, serving to further widen the gap between the German First and Second Armies. By the 9th the German armies began a retreat ordered by the German Chief of Staff, Helmuth von Moltke. The German forces were by this time overstretched and plagued by poor communication, exacerbating von Moltke’s fears of an allied breakthrough of his lines.
The retreating German armies were hounded relentlessly by the French and British forces. The German armies ceased their withdrawal after 40 miles at a point north of the River Aisne, where the retreating German armies dug in, preparing trenches and front lines that were to define the landscape for several years.

A clear strategic triumph for the allied forces, German offensive had been repulsed, recapturing large amounts of lost ground in the process. More importantly, the battle ended any hopes the Germans had of bringing the war on the Western Front to an early close before facing the Russian Army. Instead of the planned single front war, Germany now had to split its forces and material between two fronts, a turn of fate which would inevitably prove fatal.
Casualties at the battle were heavy.  The French incurred 250,000 losses, with the Germans suffering a similar amount of casualties. The British Expeditionary Force recorded 12,733 casualties.

Figure 5: The commanders of allied forces during the First Battle of the Marne: Field Marshal Joffre (2nd from left) and General French (centre) touring the frontlines, 1915. Reference: The Great War: The Standard History of the All Europe Conflict, vol. IV. Edited by H. W. Wilson and J. A. Hammerton, Amalgamated Press, London, 1915.

Figure 6:  Renault Type AG1’s line up in France to take troops to the Marne battlefield in September 1914. Reference: WWI Canada. “France recalls centennial of ‘Taxis of the Marne,’ desperate operation to save Paris in the First World War”. URL:

Research by Evan Greensides, Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services


Fenton, Damien. New Zealand and the First World War, 1914-1919. Penguin Group, Auckland, 2103

Duffy, Michael. ‘Battles - The First Battle of the Marne, 1914’, updated Saturday, 22 August, 2009 URL:

GSW. The Great War: The Standard History of the All Europe Conflict, vol. IV. Edited by H. W. Wilson and J. A. Hammerton, Amalgamated Press, London, 1915.

New Zealand History. 'Schlieffen Plan and German invasion of 1914', Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 14-Aug-2014. URL:

Wikipedia. ‘First Battle of the Marne’. Updated 3 August 2015. URL: