War on the Western Front
Reasons for the stalemate on the Western Front
* Each major power believed war would be swiftly won-“over by Christmas” * Poets such as Rupert Brooke romanticised war as noble, romantic and character building * Duty and patriotism were key features in 1914
The Schlieffen Plan
If war was to occur, Germany would be attacked on both sides by the Triple Entente. The aim was to deal with the larger threat France, then turn around to defeat the Russians before they had fully mobilised. * The right wing of the army would invade France via neutral Belgium * The left wing would meet the attacking French at Alsace-Lorraine * A quick advance through Belgium would be facilitated by seizing the railway system * German armies would circle Paris rapidly and trap the French army from behind * France would surrender and troops could be transferred to the Eastern Front
The plan relied on large numbers and an unexpected, rapid attack. It expected that the Russians would take 8 weeks to mobilise, France would be defeated in 6 weeks and that Belgium would offer no resistance.
The Failure of the Schlieffen Plan-Tactical and Strategic Problems Moltke’s modifications weakened Schlieffen’s intentions
Moltke’s modifications were to focus German troops on the fortified town of Liege in Belgium and to move troops to the left wing at the Rhine. Troops were then further moved from here to the Eastern front to deal with early Russian mobilisation.
Moltke was unwilling to grant German territory to Russia during an early mobilisation, thus prematurely moved troops from France to deal with the Russian problem, compromising their chances of success in the West and weakening the strength of the German army.
Moltke also changed the plan to pass east of Paris and avoid it, rather than wheeling around to take it. Thus all the army converged at the Seine together, leaving their flank exposed and vulnerable to an Allied advance. Underestimation of British and Belgian resistance
* Belgium was expected to fall quickly but it took from the 4th to the 19th of August to capture it. This unexpected resistance slowed the German advance and meant they had less time to surround Paris * Attack on Belgium brought British into the war
* British Expeditionary Force (BEF) :100, 000 men-highly skilled, manoeuvred rapidly, excelled at concealment
Tactical and Strategic Problems
* plan too inflexible- relied too heavily mobility * plan unrealistic in expecting the German army to wheel around and force France’s surrender in just 8 weeks * armies were forced to march 30 or 40 kilometres a day for months * Movement was only rapid where there were rail tracks, which were often destroyed by retreating Belgians * Plan not accountable for new warfare that favours the defensive-frontal assaults costly and tendered towards stalemate, static operations and siege * Battle of Frontiers, 200, 000 men died in a month
* Germany experienced major supply problems
* In some places, it was 128 km from supply base to the front line Problems with Plan 17
* French has insufficient forces and there was too much attention paid to the ‘doctrine of the offensive’ * Reliance on counter-attacks and Napoleonic ‘wave assault’ tactics Battle of the Marne
* Ended all German hopes for a swift victory-ensured development of trench warfare for the next 4 years * German allies failed to reach Paris or to destroy the France-British forces * French forces, desperate for survival- “all hands on deck approach” * September 6: Massive causalities and losses when the advancing German armies were stopped at the river Marne * September...