7th September 1914, Namur.
The guns had fallen silent for the first time in 7 days, the shell supply situation had been better than expected the railway lines through Liege had been repaired to the extent that trains were able to run close to the front line without needing to be unloaded early, as a result each team could move 2 loads of shells per day.
The mortar shells were huge, weighing in at almost 300kg, each wagon had a team of 6 horses and could move 12 shells at a time. The stream of wagons moving from the railhead to the siege artillery positions was continuous, with one wagon providing one hour of fire. The eight guns needed 192 wagon loads of shells per day, with 576 horses needed just for the wagons. That didn’t count all the other equipment that need to move, shells for all the other guns, food, fodder and the myriad objects needed to fight a modern war. As it stood the war had already been hard on horse numbers, due to the damage to the railways it had been necessary to work the stock harder than planned and wastage had been higher than anticipated. Already every horse in Belgium that was available had been confiscated, wellbred saddle horses were cavalry remounts and draught horses were pulling guns. The same was true of fodder, part of the reason for the high attrition rate was the shortage of feed, the horses were being worked harder than they were being fed and were losing condition.
The beneficiaries of this waste were the regimental kitchens, all that wasted horse meat was being turned the rations for the army. This combined with an aggressive requestioning of food from the Belgian populous was reducing the demand for freight for rations. Whilst it was helping now, it was storing up two major problems, the very real risk of an induced famine in Belgium and the other running short of horses in the future. But the needs of the plan and the war demanded the steps be taken now, the future would have to look after itself.
The silence of the guns only lasted a few seconds, the infantry officers had issued their orders whilst the shelling was going on and with silence came the blast of whistles and the bugles of the Guards regiments. The attacking infantry stormed forward, initially there was little resistance, the defenders who had just endured 5 days of savage bombardment were shocked, slowly though they began to open fire. Individual soldiers manned the trenches and breastworks which they had laboured to construct. The Belgians were generally more poorly equipped than the French, however they did have a small number of Lewis Guns, these were a light machine gun which had been manufactured in Liege under license and soon they were spitting death at the German attackers. The French infantry were also fighting back, their relentless indoctrination in the spirit of the bayonet, meant that they had done less training in defensive fighting than many armies but they settled into their positions and opened a steady fire on the oncoming horde.
The Germans had learnt from the siege of Liege, they were not attempting to capture the entirety of Namur, they were intent on capturing Fort Cognelee, the siege guns shifted their focus and resumed firing, the shells now falling deeper in the Franco Belgian defences, targeting Artillery positions and troop concentrations which had been identified by aerial reconnaissance. Advaning with the infantry were smaller field guns, these were able to provide additional artillery support against machine guns and other strong points. Effectively shooting the German infantry onto the position, the fortress, its guns dismounted and its defences shattered resisted for a few futile minutes and then the appeared a white flag thrust out of an embrasure.
An assault party made their way into the fortress to accept its surrender, they rest of the attacking German troops continued to advance rolling over the outlying trenches and causing the defenders to flee in panic back to a secondary defensive line.
The German army paused, secured its flanks and the bombardment resumed, the next fortress would fall soon.