Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Inventing the Schlieffen Plan


Dikke Bertha
 Share

Recommended Posts

1. A gross generalisation and "easy" is a subjective word - but the French were heavily defeated across the board. It should also be read in the context of many French descriptions of the beginning of the war, which run along the lines of "we advanced, we met the Germans, we retreated, we won the Battle of the Marne", Some tend to gloss over the scale of the defeat !

Hi,

Indeed, a defeat it was... but I think an oversimplification ...

As far as reserves go, and German reserves being as good as or better than french active soldiers... a statement that is superficial when you consider French active regiments at mobilistation had often 50% reservists in them.

Secondly, comparing french to german infantry in this period is viewing warfare as being simply a matter of legs on the ground. Pierre Miquel's "Les Poilu" brings up a good point.... German heavy artillery cut up the french artillery (And infantry) with impunity... and meant that many units had no artillery support at all as it would have menat sending their 75mms into german Heavy artillery range... I seem to be getting the picture that the work seems to ignore certain facts.

best

Chris

Edited by Chris Boonzaier
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Terence and Terry,one thing I still don't understand though with the idea that Franco Russian aggression started the war

is what could these two countries gain by it and what could their possible motives be?

For France maybe the regain of Alsace Lorraine but what would be in it for Russia surely they had enough territory already and they were hardly threatened by anyone were they?The only ones that war seemed to suit was Austria Hungary.

Best/Liam

How does Russia have a war with Austria-Hungary without having one with Germany too?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Terry,thanks for the info on Russian intentions re Dardanelles etc,it would still seem a minor war aim ie I can't see why Russia would want to start a European conflict just to gain the straits.If that was her aim surely a war with Turkey would be more appropriate.

I suppose what I am saying is I can't buy France-Russia starting the war as there doesn't seem to be anything 'in it' for Russia.I rechecked Strachan and he points out that one of the vital mobilisation districts was deliberately not mobilised for fear of angering Germany,hardly fits in with Russia wanting war.It also seems that partial mobilisation was almost a standard feature of

'diplomacy' for several years prior to 1914

Strachan points out too that Moltke did refer to a lot of Schlieffen's plan pre 1906 memo bearing out your point to Glenn.

Best/Liam

General/partial mobilizations were not a 'standard feature' of European diplomacy at any point in modern history. In 1912 the Russians recoiled from a decision to mobilize the Kiev military district because they knew it would cause a world war. What you are thinking of, perhaps, is some of the troop movements and such that went along with some of the crises. For example, in 1912 the Russians retained in service conscripts about to be released. But in these actions no Power ever mobilized even one military district. Austria-Hungary's 1914 mobilization was about 5 times bigger than all her measures in all previous crises combined.

We had a discussion on this a year back on another site - the only partial mobilization I know of where a Great Power did so as an act of diplomacy was Prussia vs. France in 1859. This was before the era in which mobilization and concentration became synonomous. When Prussia did so, the units were mobilized and kept in garrison. France warned Prussia that a concentration on the Rhine could provoke an all-out French attack upon Prussia.

In 1866 Austria attempted what Russia tried in 1914, and for the same reason; her army was much larger than Prussia's, but it took her much longer to concentrate it than Prussia took. Vienna therefore tried the same gambit as St. Petersburg did in 1914 - mobilize and talk. Prussia lacked an automatic mobilization means war doctrine at this time, but within two weeks Berlin had become so alienated by the Austrian mobilization that Prussia first mobilized and then started the war. The Austrian mobilization and subsequent refusal to stop it made the war of 1866 inevitable.

Russia's objectives were, as you say, oriented towards Austria and Turkey. However, it was not realistic that these could be achieved without a reckoning with Germany.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets look at the words of John Keegan on this subject, at the time of writing he was Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Sandhurst;

Indeed, it was commonly said by many who should have known better that 'Mobilization means war'. The facts do not support such a judgement. Austria had twice fully and twice partially mobilized in the decade prior to 1914 without precipitating a general conflict. On the other hand, the causes had been local and their limited nature had been recognised by the powers. When men said 'Mobilization means war' they alluded to simultaneous action by the four great powers, and they probably thought particularly of Germany, whose central situation invested her behaviour in an international crisis with crucial significance. Indeed, we can now see that as long as Germany abided by Schlieffen's intentions, her mobilization certainly would mean war. For the success of the plan demanded its immediate implementation; any delay would erode the margin of time which Russia's tardiness granted. We can also see that during the July Crisis of 1914, mobilization or the threat of mobilization produced a crucial heightening of the tension on three occaisions, Russia being to blame twice and Austria once, while it was German mobilization which eventually precipitated the outbreak.

So we can see the history of Austria mobilizing previously, far from the claim of 'nobody ever mobilized to support diplomacy' or that such a tactic was unknown to the great powers in 1914. The one thing that is clear from Keegan's writing is that mobilization would only mean war when Germany decided to say so, and when she did so herself. The idea that mobilization is somehow more significant than a declaration of war is an absurdity some people like to follow, but if it were true, the German ultimatum and declaration of war upon Russia would not have been needed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

a statement that is superficial when you consider French active regiments at mobilistation had often 50% reservists in them.

Chris

There were whole French reserve units in action too. One that springs to mind is the 6e Reserve Dragons, who, along with the professional 3e Chasseurs d'Afrique were attached as cavalry to the Colonial Corps. The reserve unit wasn't up to the task and for some reason, unknown to this day, no Chasseurs were attached to the left-hand column (5e Brigade) marching on Neufchateau via Suxy and those that were attached to the right-hand column (3e DIC), marching on Neufchateau via Rossignol, weren't asked to provide the cavalry of the avant-garde until "after Rossignol" (there was no "after Rossignol" !). The reserve cavalry could hardly keep up with the infantry on their requisitioned farm horses, let alone provide an effective cavalry screen, reconnaisance and liaison with adjoining units. When you consider that the Colonial Corps was an elite unit and the 5e Brigade, the elite of the elite; to provide them with no effective cavalry support seems unbelievable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris

This only a small point and entirely peripheral to the main discussion, but I do want to underline the point made by Terence regarding respect for and burial of the dead and to support him in this matter. There was a huge difference between the German and French approaches to this and ample evidence to show that individual German soldiers were disgusted by the total indifference of the French to treating the dead with propriety. I have recently completed a chapter of my 1915 book which covers Second Ypres and a number of German witnesses commented adversely about this. Furthermore, you only need consider the care taken by individual German regiments to provide suitable memorials and decently laid out cemeteries all along the Western Front to see the importance attached to honouring the dead. This is also exemplified in the care taken to provide military honours whenever possible to enemy soldiers killed on patrol or during raids. Often all the key officers would turn out and provision was frequently made for surviving PW to attend these funerals. The French on the other hand, even after the war, took very little care over the burial and commemoration of their fallen until the Bishops of Arras and Verdun, for example, embarrassed the government into action and took a leading role in obtaining funding and creation of the vast sites of remembrance at Notre Dame de Lorette and Douaumont.

Jack

I agree, but would argue there are a few points that need to be taken into account..

After the opening battles, the territory fought over were often behind German lines... so the burials were "in german hands"... for much of the war the Germans were on the defensive, so it may be easier to recuperate your dead when moving them from fixed positions to the rear, as opposed to having to salvage them out of no mans land.

I have no doubt the french were not as good as it as the germans ... but when you read how unprepared they were to handle the wounded, it comes as little surprise that their system was not as prepared to handle the dead very well.

Best

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3. I would agree with him: they were all meeting engagements, where the French just ran into the Germans. Don't get misled by Joffre's order of the day "to attack the enemy wherever he is encountered", the tactics of the "offensive a l'outrance" weren't given the chance to be used. Terence Zuber says he can't find any reference to bayonet charges in German histories, Jean Claude Delhez could only find 4 verified instances across the whole area (approximating to 5% of units involved).

I think TZ is looking for the wrong thing.

First off, did the German Histories then speak of attacks without bayonets? There are many details not found in histories, and not finding them is no proof that they did not exist.

Secondly, there is no reason to say that having a bayonet on the rifle or not was the deciding factor about the implementation of "Attaque/Offensive a l'outrance",

The French war diaries are availible online for those who want to read them.

There are orders by Joffre (mid august) calling for Divisional commanders to calm things down, to reel in the wild uncoordinated attacks, to stop attacking without (arty) support...

This seems to show that at least on regimental level, the Attaque a l'outrance was practiced, but at higher levels the problems were recognised after a short time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, the french had something in the region of 60% of the Divisional commanders they needed to Mobilise... but they did it anyway.

I am sure many of us served in Armies where we had only a certain % of what we felt we really needed... :hypocrite:

OK, I found it... French needed 165 Divisional commanders, had 122... but still went to war.

So to say the Germans could not implement a plan because they had fewer units than the planner thought optimal for executing it, escapes my understanding.

"You go to war with the army you have---not the army you might want or wish to have."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After the opening battles, the territory fought over were often behind German lines... so the burials were "in german hands".

Best

Chris

And a fantastic job they did too; after the front settled down further to the west, the battlefield of the "Frontiers" were under occupation for 4+ years. At aound 1916 they brought in German architects to design the permanent cemeteries, most of which still exist today. These cemeteries often contained/still contain both German and French graves.

... but there were/are still Germans buried in mass ossuaries, they don't all have individual graves (also the German custom became to mark two or three soldiers per headstone, unlike the French where one is marked one per headstone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are orders by Joffre (mid august) calling for Divisional commanders to calm things down, to reel in the wild uncoordinated attacks, to stop attacking without (arty) support...

Yes, those orders by Joffre followed the defeats of 22 August but they relate exactly to what they specify - unsupported infantry attacks, not "offensive a l'outrance". That was a specific tactic where, at divisional level, the avant-garde located and fixed the enemy in position, whilst the rest of the forces maneouvred to concentrate overwhelming attacking force at that point. That did not occur on 22 August, the opposing forces ran into each other and attacked each other. On several occasions the French were caught in column (e.g. The divisional artillery was destroyed without been able to deploy at both Rossignol and Bertrix).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets look at the words of John Keegan on this subject, at the time of writing he was Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Sandhurst;

Indeed, it was commonly said by many who should have known better that 'Mobilization means war'. The facts do not support such a judgement. Austria had twice fully and twice partially mobilized in the decade prior to 1914 without precipitating a general conflict. On the other hand, the causes had been local and their limited nature had been recognised by the powers. When men said 'Mobilization means war' they alluded to simultaneous action by the four great powers, and they probably thought particularly of Germany, whose central situation invested her behaviour in an international crisis with crucial significance. Indeed, we can now see that as long as Germany abided by Schlieffen's intentions, her mobilization certainly would mean war. For the success of the plan demanded its immediate implementation; any delay would erode the margin of time which Russia's tardiness granted. We can also see that during the July Crisis of 1914, mobilization or the threat of mobilization produced a crucial heightening of the tension on three occaisions, Russia being to blame twice and Austria once, while it was German mobilization which eventually precipitated the outbreak.

So we can see the history of Austria mobilizing previously, far from the claim of 'nobody ever mobilized to support diplomacy' or that such a tactic was unknown to the great powers in 1914. The one thing that is clear from Keegan's writing is that mobilization would only mean war when Germany decided to say so, and when she did so herself. The idea that mobilization is somehow more significant than a declaration of war is an absurdity some people like to follow, but if it were true, the German ultimatum and declaration of war upon Russia would not have been needed.

The German doctrine on the meaning of mobilization predated the July Crisis, predated the Ententes, indeed, predated the 20th Century altogether. It arose beforehand and outside the context to the situation caused by the Sarajevo attack. Pretexts do not do that; if the case, then Germany would have evolved the doctrine to suit its purposes maybe around 1911 or 1912. However, as Mr. Zuber shows in Myth, the German army was citing Russian mobilization as an act of war in exercises by the mid 1880's.

Austria did not mobilize fully or partially prior to 1914. If Keegan thinks otherwise then he can cite the appropriate mobilization decrees for 8-24 divisions, which might be a problem for him as they do not exist. The partial mobilization of July 1914 - about 20-24 divisions before superceeded by general mobilization - may have been the biggest in Austrian history, and certainly the biggest since 1866. Nothing of comparable scale had occured before this point. The troop movements made by Russia and Austria in previous crises were small potatoes; 10,000 here, 10,000 there. The 1914 mobilizations were orders of magnitude greater than anything ever seen; from Strachan I recall Austria-Hungary's alone costing more money than Austria-Hungary had currency in circulation in the entire empire. (Another reason why mobilization meant war that is overlooked - the costs were so enormous to mobilize that forcing a Power to do so was an act of war on account of the expense incurred).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good morning,

I'd certainly recommend Zuber's Ardennes book, for two main reasons: 1). a detailed description of German army training, organisation and tactics 2) a detailed description from the German perspective of the "Battle of the Frontiers". I don't read German so I am reliant on the likes of Terence Zuber, Ralph Whitehead, Jack Sheldon, Joe Rookery etc for information based on the German sources. However I would also recommend reading a French source as a counter-balance: Grasset may sometimes suffer from his "romantic" style ("baionnette au canon" etc) but his books are very detailed, written in the 20s/30s, based on contemporary records.

I am unaware of any recent detailed French account but a friend, the Belgian historian and author Jean Claude Delhez, is to publish a two volume work soon (the first volume should be out in November). Having read most of his books it should be very interesting and I know will be better illustrated (i've seen some of the photos that he intends to use).

Terence Zuber said he'd be away from the forum for a short while as he had some "home maintenance" to undertake, so in his defence I would say that, although he doesn't much use the French JMOs, regimental histories etc, he did visit the area, walk the battlefields and look and use local Belgian sources (such as Rene Bastin's "Un Samedi Sanglant").

Steve,

A very quick note -

I went for several weeks to the French army archives at Vincennes. Aside from the fact that staying in Paris is really expensive for a retired grunt major, the last time I was there (2004) the normal mortal researcher got three "boites" a day, 15 a week. A boite might include one corps or 3-4 regimantal war diaries. Hard to cover even a fraction of the French army that way. You need to be an officially-sponsored historian to get real work done - like Stefan Schmidt was by the Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris. A sweet gig if you can get it. Ostensibly, GQG didn't keep a war diary! Ha! One more document the French are hiding (or burned in 1940). One corps JMO (XIV I believe) had gone missing! The army and corps stuff is in the official history. The tactical stuff - division and below - in the JMOs says very, very little: mostly that the French were like deer in a car's headlights, froze and didn't know what hit them. Unlike German records, no after-action reports. Whatever I could find, I used (like 7 RI at Bertrix).

Back to translating. Have fun, all.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, those orders by Joffre followed the defeats of 22 August but they relate exactly to what they specify - unsupported infantry attacks, not "offensive a l'outrance". That was a specific tactic where, at divisional level, the avant-garde located and fixed the enemy in position, whilst the rest of the forces maneouvred to concentrate overwhelming attacking force at that point. That did not occur on 22 August, the opposing forces ran into each other and attacked each other. On several occasions the French were caught in column (e.g. The divisional artillery was destroyed without been able to deploy at both Rossignol and Bertrix).

Hi,

Communication Secret No 1149 of the 16th of August asks that

1- Attacks not be made before support arrives

2- The men not be exposed to fire when it serves no purpose

3- The combats not be carried out in a way the Generals loose the overview

4- Informs that well prepared attacks would be more devestating and less murderous (for the French) if carefully prepared. Artillery should be in place at the start of the battle in as large a numbers as possible... and ... Full frontal attacks should be avoided, flanks turned etc. etc...

5- Coordination Artillery and infantry essential

6- Supplies need to be improved

and finally

Elan and courage will not be enough, commanders must assure that their troops are not exhausted/suffer too many casaulties during the march or too early in the combat.

Basically the whole document is an order to divisional commanders to not waste their men and suffer too heavy losses.

Best

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve,

A very quick note -

I went for several weeks to the French army archives at Vincennes. Aside from the fact that staying in Paris is really expensive for a retired grunt major, the last time I was there (2004) the normal mortal researcher got three "boites" a day, 15 a week. A boite might include one corps or 3-4 regimantal war diaries. Hard to cover even a fraction of the French army that way. You need to be an officially-sponsored historian to get real work done - like Stefan Schmidt was by the Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris. A sweet gig if you can get it. Ostensibly, GQG didn't keep a war diary! Ha! One more document the French are hiding (or burned in 1940). One corps JMO (XIV I believe) had gone missing! The army and corps stuff is in the official history. The tactical stuff - division and below - in the JMOs says very, very little: mostly that the French were like deer in a car's headlights, froze and didn't know what hit them. Unlike German records, no after-action reports. Whatever I could find, I used (like 7 RI at Bertrix).

Back to translating. Have fun, all.

Terence Zuber

The XIV corps and various GQC are there.

"The tactical stuff - division and below - in the JMOs says very, very little: mostly that the French were like deer in a car's headlights, froze and didn't know what hit them."

could you give some examples?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The German doctrine on the meaning of mobilization predated the July Crisis, predated the Ententes, indeed, predated the 20th Century altogether. It arose beforehand and outside the context to the situation caused by the Sarajevo attack. Pretexts do not do that; if the case, then Germany would have evolved the doctrine to suit its purposes maybe around 1911 or 1912. However, as Mr. Zuber shows in Myth, the German army was citing Russian mobilization as an act of war in exercises by the mid 1880's.

Austria did not mobilize fully or partially prior to 1914. If Keegan thinks otherwise then he can cite the appropriate mobilization decrees for 8-24 divisions, which might be a problem for him as they do not exist. The partial mobilization of July 1914 - about 20-24 divisions before superceeded by general mobilization - may have been the biggest in Austrian history, and certainly the biggest since 1866. Nothing of comparable scale had occured before this point. The troop movements made by Russia and Austria in previous crises were small potatoes; 10,000 here, 10,000 there. The 1914 mobilizations were orders of magnitude greater than anything ever seen; from Strachan I recall Austria-Hungary's alone costing more money than Austria-Hungary had currency in circulation in the entire empire. (Another reason why mobilization meant war that is overlooked - the costs were so enormous to mobilize that forcing a Power to do so was an act of war on account of the expense incurred).

Given Austria mobilized troops during the Balkan Crisis in 1912 your comments that Austria did not mobilize are once more incorrect. The cost of the action proved prohhibitive but it did happen and you have previously accepted this as fact. This action in Galicia went unnoticed at the time by Russia but led to an increase in the worry a nation might mobilize secretly and then act.

To quote another work;

An introduction to the causes of war by Cashman and Robinson;

Mobilization meant was for Germany. For the others, the resort to war was probable but not automatic. Austria-Hungary and Serbia both fully mobilized in 1890 without going to war; likewise, the Balkan Wars saw alerts or mobilization by Britain, France, Austria and Russia (in addition to the actual participants), without leading to a wide war. However, in 1914 the mobilization decisions of the European powers were essentialy interdependant and interlocking. a mobilization against Serbia would trigger a Russian mobilization, Russian (or French) mobilization, no matter how cautious or restrained, would trigger a German mobilization; and a German mobilization would mean war.

This comment is somewhat self defeating;

However, as Mr. Zuber shows in Myth, the German army was citing Russian mobilization as an act of war in exercises by the mid 1880's.

The world apparently missed the Russo-German wars in the 1880's - maybe you would like to point them out to us? - so these 'acts of war' were clearly not accepted by the people who ruled Germany. The difference in 1914 was that they used it as an excuse, it did not have to mean war unless Germany forced the issue.

The German doctrine on the meaning of mobilization predated the July Crisis

Given the German doctrine only applied to Germany, and she did not tell the other nations of her hair trigger approach, it is hardly the fault of anyone else that they did not work within the concept Germany chose to work by.

Pretexts do not do that

I think you need to look up the meaning of pretext before making such comments. Maybe you prefer the word 'excuse' in its place. The end result is still the same, in 1914 Germany had the option of going to war or not doing so and trying to solve the situation via diplomacy. Remember Germany did absolutely nothing for several days after declaring war, so there was still time to try and reach a solution without interrupting the precious war plan at all, so it was the German decision to end talks and go to war in 1914 that ended all hope, whilst it was the Austrian declaration of war that started the process.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Communication Secret No 1149 of the 16th of August asks that....

Chris

Good morning,

Thanks for posting that Chris, it's also the essence of Joffre's Army communication of the 24th - infantry shouldn't attack without artillery support etc. Essentially the same message sent out before and after the day that saw the greatest French losses of the war.

The problem for the French, particularly when compared with the German forces, was that they were badly trained for, and led in, combat; this compounded with poor reconnaisance led to the scale of the defeat. There is no doubting the bravery of the French soldier, the high casualty rates attest to that but they were badly let down in preparation and combat leadership. The French knew how to advance in bounds etc. (even Grasset finds examples of it) but they were poorly trained and led in too many cases. Much is made of the French tactical doctrine of attack but as we all know there are various ways to attack. If all that officers were taught at St Cyr was find the enemy, then charge, it would be a very short course indeed !

You touched on the shortgage of able commanders in an earlier post, there was also a re-shuffle of some divisional commanders early in 1914 (pre-war) so they weren't familiar with their units at the outbreak of war. One of the reasons that the performance of the French Army improved was the removal of those commanders that weren't up to the task, to be replaced by promotion of the more able "junior" officers [this was at the instigation of not only Joffre but the individual army commanders]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given Austria mobilized troops during the Balkan Crisis in 1912 your comments that Austria did not mobilize are once more incorrect. The cost of the action proved prohhibitive but it did happen and you have previously accepted this as fact. This action in Galicia went unnoticed at the time by Russia but led to an increase in the worry a nation might mobilize secretly and then act.

To quote another work;

An introduction to the causes of war by Cashman and Robinson;

Mobilization meant was for Germany. For the others, the resort to war was probable but not automatic. Austria-Hungary and Serbia both fully mobilized in 1890 without going to war; likewise, the Balkan Wars saw alerts or mobilization by Britain, France, Austria and Russia (in addition to the actual participants), without leading to a wide war. However, in 1914 the mobilization decisions of the European powers were essentialy interdependant and interlocking. a mobilization against Serbia would trigger a Russian mobilization, Russian (or French) mobilization, no matter how cautious or restrained, would trigger a German mobilization; and a German mobilization would mean war.

This comment is somewhat self defeating;

However, as Mr. Zuber shows in Myth, the German army was citing Russian mobilization as an act of war in exercises by the mid 1880's.

The world apparently missed the Russo-German wars in the 1880's - maybe you would like to point them out to us? - so these 'acts of war' were clearly not accepted by the people who ruled Germany. The difference in 1914 was that they used it as an excuse, it did not have to mean war unless Germany forced the issue.

The German doctrine on the meaning of mobilization predated the July Crisis

Given the German doctrine only applied to Germany, and she did not tell the other nations of her hair trigger approach, it is hardly the fault of anyone else that they did not work within the concept Germany chose to work by.

Pretexts do not do that

I think you need to look up the meaning of pretext before making such comments. Maybe you prefer the word 'excuse' in its place. The end result is still the same, in 1914 Germany had the option of going to war or not doing so and trying to solve the situation via diplomacy. Remember Germany did absolutely nothing for several days after declaring war, so there was still time to try and reach a solution without interrupting the precious war plan at all, so it was the German decision to end talks and go to war in 1914 that ended all hope, whilst it was the Austrian declaration of war that started the process.

Terry - we should try to keep it to just a few points.

Mobilization meant was for Germany. For the others, the resort to war was probable but not automatic.

There is no example of a Great Power declaring general mobilization between 1815 and 1914 without war following. All the examples you mentioned are irrelevant; not one of these was the total mobilization of the entire armed forces of a Great Power, as triggered German doctrine for war in 1914.

Additionally, Franco-Russian military protocols mention nothing about mobilization not meaning war; they do, however, state that war was automatic from the dates of mobilization. Mr. Zuber mentioned it on quite a number of occassions in this thread and you've been made aware of it perhaps 50 times in other discussions. Note that talking past one another with rote talking points isn't of much interest.

The world apparently missed the Russo-German wars in the 1880's - maybe you would like to point them out to us?

Either you do not understand the difference in meaning between the words "exercise" and "war" or you are being deliberately provocative.

so these 'acts of war' were clearly not accepted by the people who ruled Germany. The difference in 1914 was that they used it as an excuse, it did not have to mean war unless Germany forced the issue.

The German doctrine that mobilization meant war preceded the 20th Century, and therefore was not linked in motive to the military situation arising after 1912. In 1914 Germany was unified socialists included at the moment Russia declared general mobilization against Germany. Both doctrinally and domestically for Germany, mobilization meant war in July 1914. If you wish to insist otherwise, then you do so against the granite face of history.

Given the German doctrine only applied to Germany, and she did not tell the other nations of her hair trigger approach, it is hardly the fault of anyone else that they did not work within the concept Germany chose to work by.

In 1912 the Russian government countermanded the decision to mobilize the Kiev Military District because it was understood this would cause a world war. I therefore fail to see how you can argue the Russian government did this in 1912 without having clear understanding to the meaning and consequences of the measure.<BR style="mso-special-character: line-break"><BR style="mso-special-character: line-break">

Remember Germany did absolutely nothing for several days after declaring war, so there was still time to try and reach a solution without interrupting the precious war plan at all,

There was no German doctrine that negotiation would continue after the casus belli had been given, nor has it ever in all of history been the case that negotiation was mandatory after this point. If you wish to argue that Germany could have talked, this is of less interest. The only question is whether or not the casus belli had been given.

Note that a similar situation to Sarajevo has just arisen in the form of Iranian plots to commit a terrorist attack in Washington. Whether these actions were high or low level is not yet known but the State Department has already indicated Iran will be held accountable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All the examples you mentioned are irrelevant; not one of these was the total mobilization of the entire armed forces of a Great Power, as triggered German doctrine for war in 1914.

German mobilization would be triggered by either full or partial mobilization by Russia as Moltke's memo points out, all it needed was for Austria to mobilize to trigger German mobilization.

Additionally, Franco-Russian military protocols mention nothing about mobilization not meaning war; they do, however, state that war was automatic from the dates of mobilization.

The military did not rule in these nations, so what the government ordered at the time was of far more importance. So far you have supplied nothing to show Russia was decided on war if Austria had ceased her war with Serbia, so it is clear that mobilization does not have to mean war.

Mr. Zuber mentioned it on quite a number of occassions in this thread and you've been made aware of it perhaps 50 times in other discussions.

Terence Zuber is just as much entitled to his views as anyone else, but he is not the final arbiter of what the correct determination of this argument is, for example I do not believe Strachan reaches the same conclusions.

Note that talking past one another with rote talking points isn't of much interest.

Pots and kettles anyone...

The German doctrine that mobilization meant war preceded the 20th Century,

The rest of the world did not subscribe to the German doctrine, nor were they aware of it. More importantly the world did not run to rules made by Germany.

There was no German doctrine that negotiation would continue after the casus belli had been given

As above, the world did not run to rules made in secret in Germany.

Perhaps you can tell me who Belgium was going to war with in 1914, as she mobilized prior to the great powers, and by your definition that meant she was decided on going to war. Who was Belgium planning to fight?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The XIV corps and various GQC are there.

"The tactical stuff - division and below - in the JMOs says very, very little: mostly that the French were like deer in a car's headlights, froze and didn't know what hit them."

could you give some examples?

What is a GQC?

I was referring to GQG Grand Quartier General, the senior French HQ. The book listing the files available expressly said that GQG did not keep a war diary. If you found one, I'd like to know the file number and a description of the contents.

Sorry, it was 26N192 XVIII Corps, "disparu". Maybe they've since found it, but if it was misfiled it could be gone forever.

Also, 26N106 III Corps. JMO 14 Sept 14-15 Feb 15 "disparu".

26N649, 58 RI (30 DI, XV CA, 2nd Army) 20 August. The regiment had already been reduced from 12 to 8 companies. "The regiment advanced south of the crest of 247-251 (no map). It was called on immediately to engage 6 companies on the crest; two remained in reserve SE of Hill 247. (173 RI comes up on the left). After 173 RI and the right flank fell back, 58 RI remained exposed (en fleche) on the line, taking violent small-arms and artillery fire, finally withdrew, covered by a company south of the Moulin Ladame stream. The fragments of the regiment retreated progressively towards Blanche-Eglise and reassembled near Juvelise at 1700. The losses were severe: 450. The regiment was reconstituted into 4 companies." And this was one of the good regimental JMOs. Most say a lot less, or nothing at all.

I hope the "three boite" problem has resolved itself to the benefit of researchers. The French army had just gotten rid of conscription and with no conscripts to perform cheap labour the archive was having difficulties.

Back to translating German.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So far you have supplied nothing to show Russia was decided on war if Austria had ceased her war with Serbia.

No one ever suggested Russian intentions were a factor in German decisions. That is because the Germans were not mind readers and had no idea if or when the Russians were lying about what they intended to do.

The question was not whether Russia would go to war if Austria ceased her march into Serbia, but whether Russia would countermand her mobilization decree under any concievable circumstances. It was the mobilization that triggered the world war. Germany did not care whether the Tzar promised on a stack of bibles that he would be a good boy once fully mobilized. Germany did not care if the Tzar had called the mobilization to find aliens in Area 51; it was the act of mobilization that was the casus belli. The stated intention to it – that was irrelevant because nobody in Vienna or Berlin believed a word the Russians were saying.

Moltke couldn't conclude that Russia would stop mobilization once started. Doing so risked throwing the mobilization into chaos, thereby leaving Austria and Germany free to do whatever they wanted with France and Serbia. Halting mobilization mid-stream was therefore impossible for Russia to contemplate because they would never trust Austria and because of the embarrassment of falling on their own swords as mobilization came off the rails. This is why on 30 or 31 July Sazonov answered the Halt in Belgrade proposal to the effect that Russia would wait after mobilizing, but dropped off all mention of the previous offer to cease mobilizing. But if Russia's mobilization was not halted the German casus belli was automatically triggered. This is because the German doctrine was mobilization meant war and not mobilization without a pretty darn good explanation meant war.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The rest of the world did not subscribe to the German doctrine, nor were they aware of it. More importantly the world did not run to rules made by Germany. As above, the world did not run to rules made in secret in Germany.

You’re saying the German mobilization decree by law required the signature of the President of Mexico?

Perhaps you can tell me who Belgium was going to war with in 1914, as she mobilized prior to the great powers, and by your definition that meant she was decided on going to war.

“Great Power” general mobilizations resulted in war in each case a Great Power did so from 1859 to 1914. Belgium was not a “Great” power. AFAIK, in the same time period the minor Powers generally adhered to the mobilization meant war rule, but there may have been exceptions. There was no German doctrine that the mobilization of a minor Power meant war.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No one ever suggested Russian intentions were a factor in German decisions.

The rest of the post is somewhat incoherent rambling. It is sufficient to dismiss the claim that 'mobilization was itself casus belli' by pointing out that France had mobilized prior to Germany declaring war upon her, but the Germans actually lied and put invented incursions by planes on bombing missions into their declaration of war as their casus belli, something absolutely insane if they could have legitimately cited French mobilization as being just that.

You’re saying the German mobilization decree by law required the signature of the President of Mexico?

No, I am saying you cannot expect the other nations to work to a doctrine Germany has concocted herself and told nobody about. If Germany wished to claim mobilization had somehow supplanted a declaration of war as the start of histilities, she needed to make others aware of this and not keep it secret and expect them to somehow guess the German doctrine. It is also rather strange that you feel German doctrine somehow has more weight in the system than Russian, French or Austrian, as they had just as much right to decide their own policy and not have it dictated by Berlin. Certainly Germany could impliment her doctrine as she wished, but by doing so she had to accept the blame for starting hostilities.

Ah! You now wish to change your 'mobilization means war' statement into 'Great Power mobilization means war' and ignore all the points you say make this so! For example, is mobilization any less expensive comparitively for Belgium? Is she somehow excused the idea that when a state mobilizes it has made the decision to go to war, or that time for talking has ended?

There was no German doctrine that the mobilization of a minor Power meant war.

Moltke's memorandum makes it prefectly clear that all that was needed was for Austria herself to declare mobilization to invoke the casus foederis clause in the Dual Alliance and Germany would be compelled to act. There is no specification of 'great power' in that alliance, and Austria was entitled to seek this action from Germany if Austria mobilized fully against Russia irrespective of what Russia had done.

Maybe you would like to explain why Germany only said Russian mobilization would force Germany to do likewise in the ultimatum? No mention of inevitable war, that war would then be inescapable, nothing at all to indicate you are correct. The Kaiser clearly didnt think so as his well known comment was 'This means I have got to mobilize as well!' and nothing at all about it being automatic war.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I could interject: regardless of what mobilization meant, by the fourth or fifth day of mobilization (depending on who's counting), that is, before mobilization had even been completed, everybody had declared war on their enemies, and war means nothing else but war, "a continuation of politics by other means".

"Other" as in violence.

Propaganda aside, there is little or no evidence that much anybody was interested any longer in negotiations.

France and Germany were at war before the Germans crossed the Belgian border.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I could interject: regardless of what mobilization meant, by the fourth or fifth day of mobilization (depending on who's counting), that is, before mobilization had even been completed, everybody had declared war on their enemies, and war means nothing else but war, "a continuation of politics by other means".

I agree, but there was nothing to be lost by talking if it did not harm operations, unless a peaceful settlement had ceased to be the desirable outcome. Both Russia and Germany acted precipitously, and Austria was the most unco-operative of all powers, but there was still the option of turning off the crisis until declarations of war had been issued.

Propaganda aside, there is little or no evidence that much anybody was interested any longer in negotiations.

I think this is a reasonable assessment, the entire crisis should never have been pushed to this situation.

The last real prospect of saving the peace was almost certainly the Halt in Belgrade suggestion, but that was delayed by Bethmann and then refused by Austria.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I could interject: regardless of what mobilization meant, by the fourth or fifth day of mobilization (depending on who's counting), that is, before mobilization had even been completed, everybody had declared war on their enemies, and war means nothing else but war, "a continuation of politics by other means".

I agree, but there was nothing to be lost by talking if it did not harm operations, unless a peaceful settlement had ceased to be the desirable outcome. Both Russia and Germany acted precipitously, and Austria was the most unco-operative of all powers, but there was still the option of turning off the crisis until declarations of war had been issued.

Propaganda aside, there is little or no evidence that much anybody was interested any longer in negotiations.

I think this is a reasonable assessment, the entire crisis should never have been pushed to this situation.

The last real prospect of saving the peace was almost certainly the Halt in Belgrade suggestion, but that was delayed by Bethmann and then refused by Austria.

But the Austrians were in no position to come anywhere near Belgrade until they had mobilized, deployed and attacked: say two-three weeks. This was no secret. No mass army could have moved any faster, and the Austrian mass army was the worst of the bunch.

The irony of it all. Kaiser Bill was the only guy who had his head screwed on straight.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...