The battle of the Grande Couronne of Nancy, 25 August-11 September 1914, saw the French defeat a German counterattack from Lorraine. The First World War had started with a French attack into Lorraine, lost to Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. The recovery of Alsace and Lorraine was thus a key French war aim and an attack into Lorraine was seen as the first part of a wider attack on Germany. The attack had failed, and the two French armies involved (General Castelnau’s Second Army and General Dubail’s First Army) had been forced to retreat back towards Nancy and the Meurthe River.
A key part of the new French line was based on the Grande Couronne, a dominating hill east of Nancy. This would form the left flank of the new French line. Castelnau had initially been in favour of retreating further west, depressed by the failure of the Lorraine offensive and by the death of his son at Morhange. He had been persuaded to hold his ground at Nancy by a combination of Ferdinand Foch’s determination and a well fought retreat.
The Germans planned to attack south of Nancy. Their Sixth (Prince Rupprecht) and Seventh Armies launched the attack, but were turned back by a counterattack on 25 August. Rupprecht then began a series of attacks on the French positions on the Grande Couronne. The largest came on 4 September. It was preceded by a then-record artillery bombardment, watched by the Kaiser, but was turned back by the French defenders. By 11 September the German attacks on Nancy had faded away. By the end of the month both Castelnau and Rupprecht would be moved west, to take part in the Race to the Sea.