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Schlieffen Plan


RodB
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Writers I've read seem to agree that it could never have worked because it didn't make provision for the distance of communications, and for heavy equipment and supplies to keep up with the speed of the advance. I find it strange that the German military , so meticulous in detailed planning in most areas, would have overlooked such a major flaw. Surely they had figures on how far their guns and supplies could travel in the field per day, they certainly knew fairly accurately how fast the infantry would advance. Any ideas anybody ?

Also, does anybody know when, and by whom, it was changed to swing East of Paris ? All the accounts I read up to now imply that Moltke changed it during the advance, and hence wrecked the plan, but now I read Clive Ponting's Thirteen days and he reckons Sclieffen had decided after 1905 that Germany wouldn't have enough troops to pass to the West of Paris, so Moltke had already changed the plan before the war. ??

thanks, Rod

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Apparently little thought was given to the fact that a significant number of soldiers would be older reservists long-since out of the military, a crucial component of pre-War thinking in order to bring most amount of muscle to bear on the French. They had problems marching such distances and then being flung into the fight; and suffered acutely from foot problems caused by the newly issued footwear.

Seemingly trivial problem but arguably had a great impact.

Moltke the Younger was a nervous and uncertain character when compared to his risk-taking forebears and no doubt any change of tactics would have caused immense confusion given the meticulous mobilisation strategy (about 11,000 trains used by the Germans alone).

Cheers,

Richard

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I'm never convinced how much the German Military believed in the Plan.

As theory it swung the Kaiser- but I think the High Command were sort of hoping it might work. They were faced with a War on two fronts, faster than they expected, and with Belgian Resistance.

War tends to be started by Politicians and left to the Military to make the best out of the situation.

Faced with war on two fronts, I think the German High Command stuck with the only plan they had(better than no plan at all) and tried to adapt it to the situation as they saw it.

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An amazing thing is that they had NO backup! Hew Strachan is my source. They lost the war there or perhaps they had 1 more chance at 1st Ypres since a win & capture of channel ports would have kept Britain from playing a large land role.

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I agree.

Germany was in an invidious position once France and Russia became military allies in the 1890s; something that Bismarck had been most concerned about averting. They believed that they could not successfully fight both through simultaneous campaigns - although their eventual victory over the Russians disproves this; perhaps without UK manpower the French would also have succumbed either in 1914 or some years later - and thus the SP seemingly offered the only viable chance of victory.

As Russian economic and military strength increased, not to mention the creation of comprehensive railway lines along her German border (willingly funded by the French) that would render otiose the Plan when they were completed by c.1916 - they were, to say the least, in a dilemma. If they attacked Russia they were in danger of becoming bogged down whilst the French attacked in the West; and if the French survived the initial assaults they would have to face both nations without the manpower to inflict a decisive defeat on the other.

However, the Plan was changed to avoid stripping the Russian Front of men in case they had managed to accelerate their mobilisation, and similarly along the Franco-German border in case Plan XVII succeeded (some hope, but at that time no doubt there was a great deal of uncertainty); both actions and the change of route through S. Belgium, left the invasion forces under-strength.

Cheers

Richard

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And in panic over small amount of E Prussia occupied they sent an army corps east too late to help there which might have been useful in the west.

I do not believe Germany decided they wanted war in 1914 but do believe they regarded it as better now than later when as You say Russia was stronger v. central powers and when things heated up they were all for it & it was indeed a war of agression on its part.

It would have been interesting indeed if they had concentrated on subs instead of useless capitol ships. Then they would have had a chance at halting successful British & later US intervention, tho, on another subject, I say that was not decisive to allied victory, & yes I know US was not an allied power.

1st 1/2 20th century Germany was so good militarily & so bad diplomatically. I loved the place in my army time there eons ago.

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King Albert I, who let them not pass our neutral territory to attack France, was not in the plan. The speedfactor was gone, so the BEF had the time to cross the channel and fight.

And I thought it was von Falkenhayns plan (when he became Chief of the German Staff , 14 sept.) to assualt towards Antwerp, to the Flemish harbours Oostende and Zeebrugge and Arras, and outflank the opposing armies. And last but not least the French ports at the Channel. So in fact Calais and not Paris was his goal. The race to the sea!

Joris

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I agree with Joris. The delaying actions fought by the Belgian Army did clog up the plan. Prior to 'joining up' I had mainly thought of WW1 as Western Front stalemate. Now I can see that in the very early days, every action which slowed down the German advance was vital.

Plus the points raised by other 'posters' above are very relevant.

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IMHO, the Schlieffen Plan, represents the greatest failure of imagination in a war full of them. Sorry, shouldn't use superlatives, perhaps that should be a very great failure of imagination.

A few points in regard to previous posts.

The Plan provided for two options for Belgium - allow German troops to pass through or put up token resistance.

In regard to option 1., the German General Staff must have known that Belgium would not simply roll over - just as Britain, France and Germany were guarantors of Belgian sovereignty, Belgium had its obligations under that same treaty, in this case to defend themselves in the event of their neutrality was violated.

Option 2. was marginally more realistic, but did not transpire. Given that the Plan depended in large part on the swift passage through Belgium, any Belgian resistance was going to prove problematic. Yet the planners seemed to remain in a dreamworld where resistance would be overcome by a few shootings of francs-tireurs "pour discourager les autres".

I find it difficult to believe that a Plan that would decide the fate of Europe should hinge on dismissing unwanted realities, rather than being a basis from which contigencies were planned for.

"His plans are like an elaborate leather harness. Mine a just a collection of old ropes. If one strand breaks, I tie an knot and keep on going." the Duke of Wellington on Napoleon, just prior to some other battle in Belgium...

Have just being reading the very detailed (but rather dully written) "Lions of July" by William Jannen. His account of events in Potsdam and Berlin constrast sharply to Spike's observations. From the time the Russian "partial" mobilisation became apparent to Germany, von Moltke pressed the Kaiser hard to take what he saw as the inevitable next step - German mobilisation, and thus the Schlieffen Plan (there was no other plan - no partial mobilisation, no "mobilise and hold", no mobilisation to allow war with Russia while remaining on the defensive in the West. This last is important. From a military point of view it was of little value - assuming France backed Russia to the hilt - but politically crucial. Given the way the crisis developed, a German mobilisation towards Russia would have cut the legs out from under the French govt, which was deeply split as things were, and almost certainly would have kept Britain out of it.

From Jannen p255, talking about the reaction to Pourtales' (German abassador in St Petersburg) telegram confirming that the Russians had commenced their general mobilisation that day -

"Moltke did not want to even wait for an ultimatum. According to the Quartermaster General, Moltke "just wanted to get to mobilisation, then the war would begin of itself, a prior ultimatum could only hurt us." As [German Chancellor] Bethmann remembered it after the war, Moltke not only wanted an immediate mobilisation but an immediate opening of hostilities and declaration of war on Russia. Moltke was a rigid and fearful man whose only hope of victory rested on the Schlieffen Plan, which presupposed a war with Russia to justify an attack on France. As far as Moltke was concerned, the war had begun once Russia mobilised. He did not share Bethmann's hopes for English neutrality, and he no longer cared about the political damage from being the first to declare war. He would not risk the failure of the Great Plan with even the smallest delay."

Remember that until Luxembourg was invaded this remained a political crisis. Due to misunderstandings between British Foreign Secretary Grey and German Ambassador Lichnowsky, on 31 July the German govt were given to understand that Britain would guarantee French neutrality if Germany did not attack them, a massive diplomatic coup that lead to the Kaiser suggesting that mobilisation should proceed as planned but that the whole army should then be moved across to the Eastern Front. When Moltke rejected the proposal the Kaiser made his famous remark, "Your uncle would have given me a different answer." The then-Minister of War von Falkenhayn took a desolate Moltke to one side and they hatched an improvised "mobilise and halt" plan which lasted a few hours before events overtook it. As I see it, Wilhelm II had little interest in the Plan per se, but simply wanted his Generals to deliver on their promise of victory, without any regard to how that might be achieved.

As to the Plan itself, the Staff under Moltke modified it somewhat from Schlieffen's plan which was beautiful in its clarity, but probably unachievable. The most significant was the reinforcement of the LEFT wing, to ensure that no Alsatian territory was lost. This:

1. weakened the Right wing through Belgium.

2. resulted in the French Left being pushed back onto defensive positions after a few days fighting, instead of being sucked into a pocket as Schlieffen intended. This allowed the French to relocate troops to form new armies near Paris.

The Plan did not stand or fall on which side of Paris it went. Cutting inside Paris was still sufficient for German plans, so long as the bulk of the French army was snared. Since all five French armies under Plan XVII + the B.E.F. were inside the German hook, it shouldn't have made a difference. What did was the existance of extra French reserves partly because of their shift to a three year service period for conscripts (increasing manpower by perhaps 40%), and the release of troops from Alsacce-Lorraine.

Sorry if this is longwinded. Theres a lot of ground to cover.

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Very well compiled post Quax. All the posts ofcourse are very good , but you would expect that of you guy's .

I just wanted to add an angle that sometimes gets bypassed . If you read most things written about Lanrazac and his Command of the 5th Army , then you see a commander who headed off on the British without so much as a " see'ya later mate " , and also a commander not in control of the situation . The book Liason 1914 shows him in a very poor light . I have no problem with that attitude , and can see where it comes from , but also I wonder if Lanrazac was as " attack at all costs " as other French commanders during this time , if by his actions he could have made the Schlieffen Plan work ?. If the French 5th had been encircled , then perhaps by Sept 1914 there could have been another result ? . Joffre certainly underestimated the forces on the flank and wanted Lanrazac to " do a lot more than he was doing " . I think ( or at least have been told ) that in 1924 a French investigation of Lanrazac took place and they advocated his actions . I am not saying this guy was a great ( or even good ) General , but perhaps the results of his actions were helpful ?.

Phil.

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This business of the guarantee to belgium is a can of worms.

There was no such guarantee. The 1839 treaty (which gave Belgium independence) said that in the event of invasion they would collectively come to her assistance. Note COLLECTIVELY.

What this meant was that if Belgium was invaded by the German army, the treaty could only be invoked if all the guarantors (effectively all the powers in Europe) decided together to come to her assistance. Germany was one of the guarantors. So, unless the German government was prepared to go to war with its own army, there was no guarantee.

In practice, the only guarantee was that the powers would come to the assistance of Belgium if she was invaed by the USA or China!

In the case of Luxembourg, the Treaty of London of 1867 (which made the country independent and neutral) made exactly the same 'guarantee'.

On 2 August 1914, as the country was being invaded, they sent three telegrams (one via Brussels) to Britain asking for assistance.

24 hours later! Grey sent this reply, "Thank you for the two telegrams which you have sent me. The serious matters to which they allude will receive the most earnest attention of His Majesty's government". To put it politely this was, 'don't call us, we'll call you'.

The French had pledged not to invade Luxembourg, but Germany declined to make such a pledge on the grounds that it would reveal their strategy.

So, effectively the Kaiser was wrong about the piece of paper. There was no paper.

Incidentally, neither Belgium nor Luxembourg realised what Britain would say collective meant, not did either notice a reply in both the Lords and Commons to identical questions in 1867 complaining about Britain taking on onerous responsibilities on the continent. The reply said quite categorically that the word 'guarantee' was just a load of diplomatic verbiage. The Foreign Secretary even went on to point out that Britain was a guarantor of Swiss neutrality, but he was sure that no one actually thought that they meant it. That's Switzerland down the plug as well!

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Good analysis. I sure concur that fierce Belgian resistance which brought about many atrocities bought several vital days.

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Hello

Something I've been pondering...

A little scenario. If:

i) Germany had expressed a less aggressive foreign policy during the pre-War period and thus seemed less threatening to Belgium;

ii) If Germany had offered financial and territorial compensation for using Belgium as a conduit to attack France;

iii) If Britain remained neutral in August '14 - as she easily could have done - and thus remained on the sidelines as a potential German adversary in order to guarantee that the Germans would vacate Belgium at the end of the fighting against France.

Would, in your opinion, Albert have allowed Germany free passage, or would he have been just as dogmatic in his defence of Belgian territory? I think I am right in stating that Franco-Belgian were (are?) quite cool: had the French first entered Belgium to take up defensive positions on the Meuse, would the Belgians have sided with Germany or remained neutral and aided the passage of the German Army?

If Germany had been granted such unhindered passage and not faced the BEF, do you think that the SP would have worked?

Cheers

Richard

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1905

The Schlieffen Plan

Count Alfred von Schlieffen, who became Chief of the Great General Staff in 1891, submitted his plan in 1905; it was adopted, slightly modified, in 1914. The plan itself is described below.

The Army Quarterly, London (July, 1929), 18 (2): 286-90.

REVIEW OF THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

. . . All writers have . . . been in accord that Moltke made the left or defensive wing in Alsace and Lorraine stronger than Schlieffen designed, and that he did so at the expense of the right wing, the decisive one, which in swinging round was to sweep the French Armies against the back of their eastern frontier fortresses and against the Swiss frontier. It has been repeated by many German authorities (e.g. General Wilhelm Groener) that Schlieffen made the proportion of one wing to the other 1 to 7, whilst Moltke changed it to 1 to 3, but how these figures are arrived at they do not reveal. According to General Groener in Das Testament des Grafen Schlieffen, the deployment of the troops against France in the 1905 plan and in 1914 were, omitting Landwehr and Ersatz troops, for sieges and L. of C. purposes:

|========1905========|=======1914=======|======ARMY=======|

| | | |

| 11 corps | 8 corps | First and Second|

| 7 Reserve corps | 5 reserve corps | idem |

| <-----------(line just south of Namur)----->

|--------------------|------------------|-----------------|

| | | |

| 6 corps | 6 corps | Third and Fourth|

| 1/2 Reserve corps | 3 reserve corps | idem |

| <------------(line through Mezieres)------->

|--------------------|------------------|-----------------|

| | | |

| 8 corps | 3 corps | Fifth |

| 5 Reserve corps | 2 Reserve corps | idem |

| <------(line through Verdun and Metz)------>

|--------------------|------------------|-----------------|

| | | |

| 3 corps | 4 corps | Sixth |

| 1 Reserve corps | 1 Reserve corps | idem

| <----------(line through Strasbourg)------->

|--------------------|------------------|-----------------|

| | | |

| nil | 2 corps | Seventh |

| | 1 Reserve corps | idem |

|=========================================================|

| 41 1/2 (total) 35 (total) |

|=========================================================|

Schlieffen detailed 10 divisions for the Eastern front; Moltke, 8. Moltke, still less Schlieffen, never had the number of corps and divisions which the Schlieffen plan assumed to exist -- the latter's plan was only a "project." But, taking the above figures: In Schlieffen's plan the defensive wing is to the offensive as 4 to 37 1/2 ( 1 to 9 3/8 ), in Moltke's 8 to 27 (1 to 3 3/8); but Schlieffen's with the forces available in 1914, would have been 4 to 31 (1 to 7 3/8).

It has been left to Dr. Bredt, a member of the Reichstag and of the Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry into the loss of the war, to tell what was the real nature of the plan, how Moltke altered it, and why he did so (J. V. Bredt, Die Belgische Neutralität und der Schlieffensche Feldzugplan). His work, which shows a wide acquaintance with war literature, purports to contain portions of the Schlieffen plan of which the public had not yet heard, and which fully justify the reproach that Moltke changed it for the worse, much the worse, but not in the way hitherto imagined. Dr. Bredt, however, points out that Ludendorff was head of the Operations Section of the Great General Staff in 1908-09, at the time of the vital alterations, and from what we know of the First Quartermast er's ruthless methods and ignorance of the world, he probably had more to do with the changes than his courtier chief. Dr. Bredt recalls, what most of us have forgotten, if we ever knew, that in the January, 1909, number of the Deutsche Revue Graf Schlieffen anonymously protested against the changes -- it was, of course, surmised who wrote the article, and it is now included in his works....

The reasons for strengthening the left wing are given by Dr. Bredt as follows: Moltke could not abandon Alsace, as Schlieffen designed to do, for the Italians might take part on the German side; General Pollio, the Italian Chief of Staff until his death i n 1914, had assured him they would As they were to be brought to Alsace, Moltke considered it necessary to hold that province with two corps. If the Italians did not appear, then the question of the transport of the two corps to the right wing would arise. As we know, the French attack towards Mulhausen fatally delayed this. These two corps, plus the two corps sent from France to Russia, would, if added to the right wing, have made it as strong as Schlieffen intended.

It emerges incidentally that the Schlieffen plan was worked out for war on the Western front only; for when drawn up, Russia was still very weak as a result of the Manchurian War. It also contemplated additions to the army that did not take place. There w as only a general statement that in the case of Russia intervening, ten divisions should be withdrawn from the Western front and sent to the East, without altering the proportion of the two wings.

More important than the changes in the technical details was the alteration of the plan politically. In the Schlieffen plan 'there was no ultimatum to Belgium, but the German army, without any notification, was first to deploy on the Dutch-Belgian frontie r.' As the German plan would be divulged by this, it was assumed that the French would take countermeasures These, according to Schlieffen's views, could only be the occupation of the natural defensive position in the Meuse valley south of Namur; and thus the French would themselves violate Belgian neutrality. Such a plan must have been at least considered by the French, and in 1914 the German General Staff took it for granted that they would advance to the Meuse. All this presumed that Belgian neutrality would not be broken by Germany first. Such a step Graf Schlieffen desired, if possible, to avoid. He wished to leave sufficient time so that, in one way or another, the German statesmen would be able to evade the reproach of the violation of Belgian neutrality. 'Th at Liege would always be captured sufficiently soon after the entry of the German army into Belgium, to serve as the railway junction for reinforcements and supply, could be accepted.'

This was all changed in the deployment plan of the mobilization year 1908-09, by which Liege was to be captured by a coup de main, without artillery preparation, during the mobilization....

There was, Dr. Bredt points out, a further reason in favour of the idea of a coup de main against Liege. The German deployment as imagined by Schlieffen would stretch as far north as Crefeld, that is, along the Dutch frontier.

'Schlieffen did not consider it out of the question, in view of the then [1905] political situation, as he judged it, that German diplomacy might succeed on the outbreak of war against England in obtaining from the Netherlands Government by an ami cable arrangement (auf geftlichen Wege) permission for the German army to cross the Dutch province of Limburg (Maastrich, Roermond). By this means the fortress of Liege would be avoided by passing north of it, and could quickly be brought to surre nder by threatening it in the rear.'

Moltke did not believe that Holland would give permission to traverse her territory, and dropped the idea of an advance of the German right wing by this route. On the other hand he feared that Liège could not be taken quickly enough by an accelerated artillery attack to prevent a delay in the general advance of the right wing. It was most important not to give the Belgians time to put the fortress in a state of defence, and in particular to construct defences in the intervals between the forts and destroy the important railways passing through Liege. It also appeared to him that it was impossible to march an army between Liege and the Dutch frontier. He therefore decided to take Liege by a coup de main carried out by troops of the peace establishment without mobilization immediately on outbreak of war. 'Two days and the following night were allowed for the execution of the coup de main.'

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Thanks all, some excellent stuff here.

Phil - Firstly, thanks, and..."Quax" ! I haven't used that for a while :)

You and I will have to break some Swans sometime and yack about Lanrezac. He gets a big thumbs up from me. Possibly the only high level French commander in 1914 who had a clue what was unravelling before his eyes. You don't get so much info on the personalities of French generals in English writing, but Tuchman's picture of him is very different from what you say of Liaison 1914 (which I haven't read). He was a little unstable perhaps - in comparison to Joffre - but he extracted 5th Army from an impossible position and still managed to just barely comply with Joffre's "offence a outrance" orders. He misread John French somewhat (speaking of unstable characters), but French was hard to read, especially since he and Lanrezac were almost unable to communicate. Lanrezac doubted the BEF would stand. Given French's despondency, I would say with good reason, especially as he didn't know where they were most of the time. But he underestimated their resolve when French did want to fight. Great general? Probably not, but he was very, very competant. His attack at Guise was crucial to what followed on the Marne. His dismissal was a travesty.

healdav - some excellent points. You're right of course, the German invasion of Belgium would not guarantee British entry. But it gave Grey the argument he needed to put to Cabinet to get them to agree to go to war. As I understand it Plan XVII called for the French to violate Belgian neutrality, on the assumption that the Germans would be anyway, as mentioned in the Army Quartely review. As regards DirtyDicks "what-if", I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the Germans had held back and the French had crossed into Belgium first.

Richard - they are some big if's, but yes I suspect it would have. 12 fewer divisions on the Entente's left wing probably would have been enough that the French army would have been engulfed before Manoury, Gallieni etc could have organised a counter stroke, especially if Belgium had taken an active part to oust the French. But even given your assumptions I don't believe that Albert would ever have permitted passage of foreign troops in the way you describe.

gord97138 - fascinating review, but some parts mystify me. The SP relied in part on 2 Italian Corps being available. I'm gobsmacked. That is weird on so many levels. But I have reservations about the statement "Moltke could not abandon Alsace".

1. V, VI and VII armies could all have been weakened without risking Alsace. It would have meant a commitment to standing on the defensive there, but that would have been a good thing. It was, indeed, one of the central ideas of the Plan. standing on the defensive their would have encouraged the French to continue driving into that sector, leaving them more exposed at the left. As it was, the German counterattacks after Mulhouse, Sarrebourg and Morhange forced the French back onto their own defensive line, which freed up troops (even allowing for the appalling casualties they had already suffered). The troops freed up were amongst those that fought on the Marne. The only difficulty would have been restraining a few Princelings who, I suspect, would not have had much stomach for un-heroic defensive tussles.

2. I don't see why the possible arrival of Italian forces makes much difference. Since they would have been coming via Austria, I don't see why it matters whether they deployed into the Vosges or behind the Rhine.

3. Why not?

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Ducky read Spears Liaison 1914 & consider what he has to say about Lanrezac. 1st of all, it's a terrific book! He did do well at Guise but was absolutely forced to do so by Joffre. Joffre babysat him thru the battle cause he feared he would again refuse to engage the Germans w/o him literally looking over his shoulder. And the great victory was won after he was sacked.

I agree that he saw the aim & direction of the enemy before the others but was he ever a reluctant warrior.

You will find Spears quite balanced & it's a fascinatiny eye witness account, lucky for you it's available in reasonably priced paperback. Believe me you will be glad you got it, I have read it 3 times & it's quite long.

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It's very true that Spear's book is a great read , and Paul puts the wording much more eloquently than I did . It was not only Lanzezac ofcourse who wanted to " get the hell out of there " after the first engagements . As is often written French seemed to lose the nerve aswell ..For mine Spear's believed that the German hook could and should have been stopped there and then . He was there , I was not , but I think if perhaps one of the Battle of the Frontiers General had been incharge of the 5th , then there is a possibility that they could have lost the battle in a day ( or a few days ) . In all possibility it may not have meant the success of the Schlieffen Plan , but it might have made the reverse at the Marne more difficult , always remembering that the lines of communication had been further stretched and the Germans even more exhausted by then .

Paul is an expert in this field , I am a general military history enthusiast , but if I was to give an opinion of the Spears book , it would be that it is a mine of great information , but not to treat it as the be all and end all on the subject of Lanrezac .

I would be proud to crack a few swans over many conversations with you Duckster/Quax , but be warned mate , I'm a jack of all trades , master of none on military history ...so it could get off the beaten track a bit . :D .

Just my thoughts .

Phil.

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My conclusion:

LONG LIVE THE BELGIAN ARMY 1914!!!

It was a bad equiped army but they fought as lions.

- The forts of Antwerp and liege where a thorn in the eye of the Germans! Too many problems...

- The Cyclist corps defeated the German elite cavalry at Halen

- The army fought in guerrilla style, the Germans didn't know that kind of war

- Finally the flooding of the Yzer valley stopped the total advance of the German war machine

The old saying goes well for the Belgian army in 1914: If you are not strong, then be smart!

But because of the delay the Germans had and because of the geurilla style the German shot a lot of civilians and they burned down Leuven !!! :angry: Bad losers!

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Wow, what a lot of ideas ! Seems to me, knowing what we do now about how correctly used artillery and mgs acted as tremendous defensive force multipliers, the Germans really didn't have much of a problem with a weak left wing, they could have sucked the French in as far as they wanted and held them where they wanted, while keeping the preponderence of troops in the right wing. But did they have the logistics support for such an exercise ? Reports suggest not.

And they themselves probably didn't yet realize how defensively deadly mgs would prove to be. But they must have had some idea, seeing the large numbers they had developed. ??

Another question... do we know where the Plan expected the major French resistence to develop ? Or did they not in fact expect to have to fight a major battle, rather smaller separate actions in the various regions ? It seems that was when the communications problems came in to play, at the Marne. I still can't see how the German staff could overlook the problems of fiighting a major battle by remote control... unless they had not foreseen it happening. Even more curious - how would they overlook the large right wing transport problem ? And is that why they cut it ? If so they effectively had no plan at all, if it was logistically impossible to execute the major concept.

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My conclusion:

LONG LIVE THE BELGIAN ARMY 1914!!!

It was a bad equiped army but they fought as lions.

- The forts of Antwerp and liege where a thorn in the eye of the Germans! Too many problems...

- The Cyclist corps defeated the German elite cavalry at Halen

- The army fought in guerrilla style, the Germans didn't know that kind of war

- Finally the flooding of the Yzer valley stopped the total advance of the German war machine

The old saying goes well for the Belgian army in 1914: If you are not strong, then be smart!

But because of the delay the Germans had and because of the geurilla style the German shot a lot of civilians and they burned down Leuven !!! :angry: Bad losers!

I tend to disagree.

They fought well in 1914 but not outstanding.

Liege was never a real problem, the passage was secured in a few days with a minimum of troops. The fortresses that remained were mopped up without too much losses. The crossing of the Meuse was also not a really big problem for the Germans.

Antwerp was not meant to be attacked and taken in force by the Germans. They only had 1 (one) reserve corps there to prevent the Belgians from attacking their flank and rear from Antwerp. It was only when the race to the sea began that it was important for them to seal off Antwerp (something they could not do because of lack of troops there).

Halen was only a press victory for the Belgians (needed for morale). The German cavalry just wanted to know what was going on, had a bit of a fight, and went on to reconnoitre elsewhere. (the Belgians lost more men than the Germans).

The guerilla style was used by a few detachments in Flanders (in which the BRITISH armoured cars played quite a role), for the greater part gendarmerie etc. This kind of warfare cost the Belgian civilian population quite dearly IMO. It was a kind of warfare which was known by the Germans from the Franco-Prussian war IIRC and retaliations could be expected as is the case in all guerilla wars.

The flooding of the Yser valley was quite a good piece of thinking, but you must know too that it was done in spite of several generals' resistance. Besides, the French had a backup-plan to flood the Dunkirk-Poperinge area IIRC.

Just my two pence...

Jan

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The Belgium Army question is again a very interesting one . From what I have read the Germans were pretty much on schedule through Belgium ...but could have saved 4 or 5 days had the resistance been not as stiff . The loss of the 4 or 5 Corps to the investing of the ports also cost the Germans . I love the pictures of the Belgium Army of 1914 ..and thats not being patronising !. That one everyone must have seen with the soldiers with their top hats and the dogs is amazing . I don't perscribe to the theory that Belgium cost the Germans victory in 1914 , but I do perscribe to " long live the Belgium Army " as our friend bkristof said . They fought very gallantly under impossible circumstances .

Phil.

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Personally, I suscribe to the theory the strengthing of the German Left lost them the war ... but I could be wrong ...

You know ... its a real quandry ... I still can't comprehend the immensity of what over-all command was/is like. You have a 1000 issues all facing you and the future of your brand of civilization at stake ... and you do the best you can ... and 100 years later people are still wondering and discussing your decisions ... as if you made them in a careful, considered way.

It occurs to me ... most of this happened like REAL life happens and certainly Real Military Life happens ... Everything I've ever seen in the military is that an idea is hatched and at some level announced with enough vigor that people around the idea believe it's the action to take ... after that it is one, huge kluge of people trying to do what they THINK is the idea and take the best actions they can in some level of compliance to that idea and the stuff all sort of cascades until there is resistance to the idea and then there's sort of this sociological mudslide around, over and backed up by the resistance ... more ideas, more kluge ...

You can look at Kluges and often tell the original nationality of the accomplishment of the Kluge ... but its still this sort of anarchistic mud-slide of stuff happening which might or might not actually resemble the "idea" ... WWI is a perfect example of this ... who actually planned trench warfare ... it happened and then there was nothing to stop it from happening till there was ... something worked and it did ... IF this is not why things happen, then explain Ypres to me ... the casualty machine appeared ... and could not be broken because to do so would be to lose faith and to dishonor those who originally kept the battle there ... not by plan but because the German Mud movement forward finally met a wall of British / Belgian Mud walls ....

There is an old bicycle racing saying "Plan the race, Plan the tactics ... Plan all you want ... then the whistle blows." I believe it's the same in war.

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They fought well in 1914 but not outstanding.

Liege was never a real problem, the passage was secured in a few days with a minimum of troops. The fortresses that remained were mopped up without too much losses. The crossing of the Meuse was also not a really big problem for the Germans.

Antwerp was not meant to be attacked and taken in force by the Germans. They only had 1 (one) reserve corps there to prevent the Belgians from attacking their flank and rear from Antwerp. It was only when the race to the sea began that it was important for them to seal off Antwerp (something they could not do because of lack of troops there).

Halen was only a press victory for the Belgians (needed for morale). The German cavalry just wanted to know what was going on, had a bit of a fight, and went on to reconnoitre elsewhere. (the Belgians lost more men than the Germans).

The guerilla style was used by a few detachments in Flanders (in which the BRITISH armoured cars played quite a role), for the greater part gendarmerie etc. This kind of warfare cost the Belgian civilian population quite dearly IMO. It was a kind of warfare which was known by the Germans from the Franco-Prussian war IIRC and retaliations could be expected as is the case in all guerilla wars.

The flooding of the Yser valley was quite a good piece of thinking, but you must know too that it was done in spite of several generals' resistance. Besides, the French had a backup-plan to flood the Dunkirk-Poperinge area IIRC.

Just my two pence...

Jan

Hi Jan,

Indeed the Belgian army could stop the German supressing force, but still they were a big pain in the **** (saying the US way).

I have counter facts:

The forts not a problem? Why did they kill civilinas as "revenge" then? Dinant 80 civilians,

Charleroi (fort of Tamines) 460 civilians,

Namur (fort Andenne + Namur): 400 civilians.

If this was not of frustration, then the Germans were really TERRIBLE HUNS !

If Antwerp wasn't important why was it sieged then by 120000 men under command of General Von Beseler?

Didn't the Belgian army stopped the attempted breaktrough at Tervate, with big losses, but the soldiers were devestated and hungry, tierd...

It isn't because they lost more men in comparignto the Germans, that those soldiers were cowards?

I still believe the Belgian army in 1914 fought as good as they could. And they were brave to me.

Don't forget that the French didn't like to help the Belgians and gave only some symbolic support. They prefered a defence line in France instead of helping Belgium. Only the Brits really tried to help, but to late.

I have deep respect for, the "poor" Belgian army in WW1.

They had it much harder than some other armies because they didn't get proper support and they didn't have the equipment, BUT they managed to hold their positions.

greets,

a chauvenistic? or realistic Flemish guy LOL... ;)

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Kristof,

A few things:

1. von Beseler didn't have 120.000 men at his disposal. Had he had such a number, he would have annihilated the Belgian Army in Antwerp... He had the III. Reservekorps and a Marine-Division (3 divisions compared to about 6 divisions under Belgian command in Antwerp?). It was not until the end of September that he got additional reinforcements: and Ersatz-Division and 2 Landwehr-Brigaden. He wanted to take Antwerp and destroy the Belgian Army but his plans were not approved and he didn't get the necessary troops until the Belgian army was esaping from the encirclement (which was never a fact).

2. The shooting of civilians in those cities had more to do with the used Belgian tactics, as you mentioned yourself earlier, and the inexperience in combat of German soldiers than the resistance of the fortresses, which was quite easily overcome.

3. At the time of the counterattack at Tervate, the Germans were as exhausted as the Belgians, having fought the same battles.

4. I never said they were cowards because they lost more men. I just said that Halen was just an ordinary scrap between the Belgian army and the scouting German cavalry, in which there was no loser nor a winner.

5. What about the French Fusiliers Marins of Ronarc'h? And the other French reinforcements? The British didn't have much to offer at that time, they only had their regular divisions and needed help from the French themselves.

As I said: the Belgian army fought well with the means it had, but not exceptionally well and the Belgian army was not responsible for the failure of the Schlieffen plan.

Jan

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As I said: the Belgian army fought well with the means it had, but not exceptionally well and the Belgian army was not responsible for the failure of the Schlieffen plan.

Jan

Hello Jan,

They fought exceptionally well!

(Now, you have to answer, "No! Well, but not exceptionally."

I will answer you then; "Yes, they fought exceptionally well!".......)

To all,

I'm convinced of one thing since I have been studying First World War History; They wrote history, and we can't rewrite it! So I stopped trying to understand some tactical decisions...

NO MORE "IF THIS, IF THAT..." FOR ME!!!!!!

Despites all tactical experts explainations.

Joris

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