Due to the complexity of this question, it must be broken down before an attempt at answering it can be made. Following this, it will be easier to understand the exact context in which this article will consider this question. By asking Why was there stalemate on the Western front' two questions are actually being asked. Firstly, why did a stalemate start and secondly why did the stalemate continue between 1914 and 1918. The second issue within the question is the section that specifically refers to stalemate between German and France'. It is debatable whether this refers to conflict between German and French armies or German and French territories. Since British and Belgian forces had a significant impact to conflict on the Western front and the inclusion of facts concerning these forces is necessary to answer in full the question Why was there Stalemate on the Western front'. This article will take the opinion that the question asks for the inclusion of all relevant events leading to and sustaining deadlock on the Western front. The structure of this article will look chronologically at the start of the deadlock followed by an analysis of the continuation and eventual end of the stalemate.
When war began in the summer of 1914 both Germany and France had distinct ideas about how war should proceed. Germany, being the initiator of conflict, had the advantage of putting its Schlieffen Plan' into action first. The plan called for a large-scale invasion of France with a large proportion of the German army moving into France through Belgium. Paramount to the German plan was speed. In order for Germany to be able to invade Russia without worrying about France, Germany needed to defeat the French in a matter of weeks. Due to a number of unforeseen factors, the German plan failed and led directly to the deadlocked situation that would continue for over four years.
As a result of alteration to the Schlieffen Plan, the complete failure of the French plan XVII and the intervention of British, Belgian and French forces, a situation that could only be described as stalemate was firmly established by November 1914. The events leading to this began on 4th August 1914 when around a million German troops poured into Belgium according to the Schlieffen plan. This when Germany met its first major setbacks as Britain, quite unexpectedly from Germany's perspective, immediately declared war on Germany to honour an old treaty with Belgium. Also, the Belgian army and people put up a much greater resistance than had been expected. The Germans, wasting valuable time and causing large numbers of troops to be left behind to counter continuing Belgian resistance, could not quickly seize strong Belgian forts or crush the Belgian army. As half the German army was caught up in Belgium, France put its plan into action. French attacks got nowhere, however, and French were in fact pushed back across their own border and deep into France very quickly. By pushing the French attackers back into France the Germans were, in fact, forcing the French army out of the trap into which Schlieffen had intended them to fall. The German troops who had fought through Belgium were exhausted and short of supplies. Their numbers had been reduced by Belgian resistance, a battle with the BEF and part of their force being diverted to the fast developing Eastern front. When this was combined with the French troops who were being rushed to defend Paris, the German army no longer possessed the resources to successfully capture Paris. General Moltke, therefore, ordered the German first and second armies to swing East of Paris in an attempt to catch the retreating French army between the Germans swing back from the West and those who had repelled the French invaders in the East. General Joffre had, however, prepared the French for this kind of move and thanks to aerial reconnaissance he knew exactly where the German armies were. The culmination of...
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