Were Taxis Vitally Important to WWI?

WWI France was known as the site of many great events, though one of the lesser known involves about six hundred taxis. Near Paris, a large battle was brewing between the Germans attacking British and French troops. They British and the French needed aid, and they needed it fast if they were to survive, much less win, the battle. Thanks to the WWI taxis, they received the aid of thousands of troops that day.

The Germans had been advancing through Europe with rapid pace in the beginning stages of WWI. By the time they reached the eastern fields near Paris, they had stormed through much of France on their way from Belgium. Thanks to the taxis and their transport of so many troops, the British and French were able to take the upper hand in the battle. This sway in the battle resulted in a German retreat to the grounds behind the lines of battle and into Switzerland.

Of course, taxis do not work for free. Having basically prevented the victory of the Germans, the cab drivers needed more than glory as payment. France ended up paying them around £3500, a considerable sum during WWI. Presumably, it was worth every pound.

A fascinating story, indeed. Or at least it would be, were it not a lie based on historical misunderstandings.

First off, even the supposed 6000 troops delivered to the Battle of Marne that day would not have made as much an impact on WWI as believed, seeing as how there were already over two million at arms between the French, British, and Germans. Also, the taxis themselves could not get too close to the battle. This means that many of the troops delivered fought in the rear, if at all.

Also, the French and British were not as helpless as the tale of the taxis suggests. The Germans had made a few errors in strategic planning, and it was easy for the French to flank them and attack from all sides. This made a much larger impact on WWI than the delivery of a few troops, The Independent reports.

Interestingly enough, the one full-fledged fact in the legend of the WWI taxis is that of the amount France paid them. Everything else, however, is regrettably false. While it would have made for an interesting tale, it is also reassuring to know that the French and the British were able to handle their own, largely due to clever strategy, without the help of emergency reinforcement from taxis. It is a much more heroic way to remember those who fell in WWI.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE