First World War

The First World War




Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

  • Gavrilo Princip
  • The Events of 28 July 1914

    Causes of the War

  • A World set for War

    The Schlieffen Plan

  • A dead man's Plan
  • Two Stage Plan
  • The Plan commences
  • Why did it fail?

    Trench Warfare

  • Purpose of the Trenches
  • Volunteering
  • Conditions of Trenches
  • Fighting in the Trenches
  • Christmas at the Trenches

    The War at SeaThe War at Sea

  • Battle of Jutland

    The War in the Air

    Women in the War

    End of the War

    Consequences of the War

  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • Gains and losses
  • The Rise of Hitler


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    The First World War, known as the Great War, was a terrible clash of forces in, what was thought at the time to be, a war to end all wars - though only shortly after broke out the Second World War. The war did not become known as 'World War I' until the Second World War began. Before that it had been called the 'Great War' or simply the 'World War'.

    The first fighting began in August of 1914, with the first shots being fired by Richard van Emden in a small Belgian village, though things had been brewing quite a while before this, and lasted four years, ending in November of 1918.

    One of the main causes of the First World War, was the very complicated system of alliances that the countries of Europe had. What originally began with Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, quickly dragged other countries, the much more powerful countries, in and soon all of Europe was fighting in what became a World War.

    The war was mainly based on two sides, known as the Central powers that consisted of an alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the Triple Entente, also known as the allies that was made up of an alliance of Britain, France and Russia. In the months that followed the beginning, when these countries had declared war upon one another, Italy joined in on the side of the allies, and the Turkish Empire joined the Central Powers. In April of 1917, the United States joined the conflict on the side of Britain.

    Though these were the main forces that joined in the fighting during the world war, there were many more. To start with, many of the major countries such as Britain had large empires in countries all over the world, that would help them in the fighting. During the four years of the war over 100 countries from Africa, Asia and Australia joined in the fighting as well as those in Europe and America, and it truly could be called a World War.

    The war was a terrible waste of lives. France and Germany both lost around a million and a half men each, Britain and its colonies lost approximately 1 million men, and the USA lost around 88,000. Russia lost more than all these together.

    If you ever travel to France, there are cemeteries where there can be over 1000 grave stones, each person having died in the war. Many bodies were never recovered as they died in No-Man's land were it was too dangerous to collect the dead bodies. You don't even have to travel as far as France, for in even the smallest village in England you will find memorial stones dedicated to all the British of that village who lost their lives 'fighting for their country' and each year on the 11th of
    November and 11 a.m. there is a memorial silence remembering them. Was it really necessary for such bloodshed?

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    Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

    BANG! BANG! Two shots fired in quick succession, one hitting Franz Ferdinand, 51 years old, the other hitting his wife, Sophie von Chotkova. In the seconds following Ferdinand shouted to his word to his wife, the last words he would ever speak: "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" Though they lives a while longer, both of them died soon after, these two shots being the spark of the First World War and everything that followed with it.

    Francis Ferdinand (more commonly known by the German name Franz Ferdinand) was the heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungary Empire, an Empire neighbouring Germany which was and also one of Germany's few allies. He was born on 18 of December 1863, in Graz, Austria, being the eldest son of the Carl Ludwig, the brother of the current Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Josef.

    Franz Josef's only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, died in 1889, followed shortly after in 1896 by his brother Carl Ludwig, leaving the closest decedent Franz Josef had, his nephew, Franz Ferdinand and thus Ferdinand became the heir to the throne.

    The only way the title of heir could be passed onto Ferdinand was for him to marry a Princess from another country in Europe, as he was not born of the House of Haspburg. However, in 1888, Ferdinand had first met his future wife, Sophie von Chotkova, at a dance, and although she was of noble status, from the Bohemian family, she wasn't from a royal family from Europe. This meant that he wasn't to marry her or he would no longer be able to be heir to the throne.

    After much protesting, eventually in 1899, a deal was drawn up between the Emperor and Ferdinand. He would be permitted to marry Sophie, but only under certain conditions. The first of these was that any children he had would not be allowed to succeed him for the throne, secondly, Sophie would not be allowed to sit with him in the royal carriage and thirdly she would not be able to sit with him in the royal box.

    Ferdinand accepted these conditions and in 1900, he and Sophie were married, though neither Franz Josef or his brothers and the rest of his family attended the wedding. The only people there were his stepmother and her two daughters.

    Ferdinand, by this time was making himself more and more unpopular in the eyes of the people of Austria-Hungary. Though he was quite happily married with three children, Sophie, Maximilian and Ernst by 1904, he had already made himself unliked by the Emperor by refusing to back down from marrying Sophie, and that was just the start.

    He had a strong personality, he was a very proud man, with a very short temper, and was often very suspicious of people. Also the changes he planned to make when he became Emperor were not met happily. Though his plans would probably have saved the falling apart Empire that cried out for nationalism, no one really wanted to carry out what he proposed.

    Perhaps it was because of this unpopularity, that he decided to take a trip to Bosnia's main city Sarajevo in the first place. Before becoming the heir to the throne, Ferdinand had spent some time in the army and as he became the heir, he also became a Inspector General of the Army, and taking a trip to Bosnia, would inspect the army manoeuvres of the State that was one of the particularly troublesome States, it would also make him seem less wrapped up in his own family life and concerned about the welfare of the Empire.

    On June 28 1914, he and his wife made the trip to Bosnia, one of the Austria-Hungarian Empire's newly formed states. They knew it would be dangerous, as many people in this State wished to become their own country, so a high security had been put in place by the local police force beforehand and 35 possible troublemakers had been arrested.

    However one man slipped past the security, and as the procession with the Archduke and his wife made a wrong turn from the carefully lain out road plan, this man took his chance, firing the two devesting gunshots, this man was Gavrilo Princip.

    Gavrilo Princip

    Gavrilo Princip was a lean, sickly looking man, born in the country of Bosnia in July of 1894 and son of a postman. He was the brother of either other children, though only two of them survived infancy. Even from an early age, he was poor of health, eventually dying of tuberculosis, though not before he made his mark in history.

    When he was just fourteen years old, Bosnia was overwhelmed by the massive Austria-Hungary Empire, to become a State of the Empire. Bosnia becoming a State struck Princip hard, and even from a young age, he became obsessed in the idea of striking a major blow for the freedom of his State.

    Once obtaining an education lead him from Sarajevo and Tuzla, eventually out of Bosnia into neighbouring Serbia, where he continued his education at Belgrade, it was here that his hopes for striking out for freedom, became slightly closer to reality.

    In 1912, shortly after arriving in Serbia, Princip discovered the Black Hand, a secret organisation that were strong nationalists. They believed that Bosnia should break away from the Austria-Hungary Empire, and should join Serbia - Princip agreed with them.

    He joined them, and for the next two years he spent his spare time with them, knowing that he would soon have the chance he had been wanting for. He and two other men, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez, in the Black Hand, knew they had tuberculosis, and knew that there was only a matter of time for them to live, meaning they were willing to give their lives if it would help their cause.

    Finally, as the trip of the Archduke, was announced, he knew the time had come, and he travelled back from Serbia to Bosnia, to wait the arrival of Franz Ferdinand. On the 28 June 1914, when he was just 19 years old, the chance finally came, and as the Archduke's car reversed slowly backward, he stepped out from the crowds and fired his two deadly shots.

    The Events of 28 June 1914

    Shortly before 10 a.m. the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife arrived at Sarajevo by train, meeting a procession that would take them through the streets to the town hall.

    After driving passed the first member of the Black Hand, Muhamed Mehmedbasic, who was too afraid to do anything, at 10.15 a.m. they reached the second member Nedjelko Cabrinovic who launched a bomb at them before drinking a poison, cyanide, and throwing himself into the River Miljacka (the poison failed to kill him and he was arrested later.

    The bomb missed it's target as Franz Ferdinand's driver saw it and accelerated, and it hit the car behind, though seriously injuring the two people in the car Eric von Merizzi and Count Boos-Waldeck, no one was killed.

    Franz Ferdinand ordered that the procession be stopped, and got out of his car to check on the injured, exposing himself to all the dangers of the Black Hand, but here there was no one to strike

    The procession set off again shortly after, hurrying on too quickly for any of the other members of the Black Hand to strike, until the procession reached the town hall of Sarajevo.

    Gavrilo Princip wasn't sure what had happened, so he hung around at a cafe in Franz Josef street, hoping he might get a shot if the procession came that way.

    After much discussion they decided to set out again, this time to the hospital to visit the two men who had been severally injured by the bomb. They wished Sophie to stay behind, but she bluntly refused, saying: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today I will not leave him."

    To avoid the city centre that would be most dangerous, as that was where they had planned on travelling through, Oskar Potiorek, who was in charge of security decided it was safer for they to travel along the Appel Quay, however the drivers were not told of these changes.

    The journey and the shooting.

    The procession headed back the way they had come, but when they reached Appel Quay, the drivers turned right, onto Franz Jospef Street. They quickly realised the mistake, and stopped, almost directly outside the cafe Gavrilo Princip waiting at.

    As the driver slowly reversed, Princip took his chance. He took a step forward and at a distance of five feet fired into the Archduke's car, hitting Franz Ferdinand in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen.

    The bullet pierced Ferdinand's jugular vein, but in his last breath of consciousness he pleaded with his wife: "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" Both of them died of the wounds shortly after.

    As soon as Gavrilo Princip fired his deadly shots, made his mark in history, he then turned the gun on himself, planning on finishing himself there and then. However, this attempt at suicide failed, as a man stood behind him saw what he was doing and knocked the gun from his hand. Another citizen grabbed Princip and within minutes, the police were there, and had arrested him, along with Cabrinovic.

    After an interrogation, he and Cabrinovic revealed the names of their fellow conspirators in the Black Hand, and they were all arrested and taken to trail. He was found guilty of murder and sent to jail for the maximum sentence that was twenty years, he couldn't get the death sentence because of his age even though he pleaded: "There is no need to carry me to another prison. My life is already ebbing away. I suggest you nail me to a cross and burn me alive. My flaming body will be a torch to light my people on their path to freedom. This just shows how strongly Princip believed in what he was doing, how he was certainly willing to die for it.

    After trying to kill himself again on the poison cyanide, that failed as it made him vomit it up, he finally got his wish to die, finally dying on April 28 1918, four years after his deed, of tuberculosis.

    The murder of Franz Ferdinand could have been avoided. To say he was so important, the security measures put in place at his visit were only very light in comparison to whenever Franz Josef travelled anywhere. The security of his visit rested in the hands of the police and only 120 policemen were placed along the route. This was out of the seventy thousand that Sarajevo had decided to keep at the barracks.

    Franz Ferdinand himself didn't particularly care for his own safety either, clearly shown by the way he stepped out of his car after the bomb had gone off, at the mercy of any assassination nearby. He was said once that he did not agree with high security, if he was to die, it was in God's hands and no amount of soldiers could stop it.

    Perhaps if the police force had had more units posted, and the trip had been more organised, so the drivers had been informed that they were to go along Appel Quay, the murder might not have been committed, and the four year war that was sparked off between the world within four weeks, might never have taken place.

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    Causes of the War

    Although the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the spark that set off the World War, it did not explain why the war became a World War, if there weren't other reasons for war, it would have just been a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, who Austria-Hungary claimed responsible for the assassination.

    There were many reasons for the First World War, many long term causes that had been around up to a century, many short term causes, with ultimately the spark, it was a very complex web of these new and old reasons that makes is much less straight forward than the Second World War.

    However, there were several main causes of the war: old alliances, settling disputes over boundaries, feeling threatened by advancing countries, and want for more colonies, to expand empires.

    A World set for War

    By 1914, the world was very set for a possible outbreak of war, it seemed unavoidable. All that was needed to launch the World War was a spark, a spark that we have already seen was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. So why were the conditions so perfect for the start of the war? Many of the reasons, dated back a long time.

    One of the reasons for the War that dated back a long time, was the fact that the Western World was very power hungry. All the European countries wanted vast and powerful empires that stretched the world. The scramble for Africa was a good example of this, where the continent was split up into colonies owned by more than eight countries.

    The scramble lead to many small disputes over ownership over colonies, and although they were very minor, it wouldn't take a lot, to set a large fight up. Although by 1900, most boundaries that were made, they were still very tense, making the Europeans very tense towards one another too, and there were many problems created by having so many different European countries ruling.

    Development was one of these problems, empires wished to proceed with the development of their colonies, however they couldn't because of the other colonies ruled by other European countries, meaning they were blocked, and were unable to proceed. An example of this was when the British Prime Minister of Cape Town at the very tip of South Africa wished to build a railway system that ran north all the way up to Cairo, on British land. However, this could never be possible, as there were German and Anglo-Egyptian colonies blocking the way.

    All the European countries were competing to have the greatest empires, making them very hostile towards each other, not only those who had large empires, but those with relatively little power too. Counties such as Russia and Austria-Hungary were very jealous of other countries' empires, such as the British Empire, that was expanding all over the world.

    Another danger with the many empires, not only the tension between them was the fact that if a war did break out, it would not only be the countries that the war began in that were fighting, but also the colonies would be expected to fight too. With just a spark, you could have all of Africa fighting one another, and the spark was provided.

    The Alliance System

    Another reason for the World War was because of alliances that countries had formed in the past. By the time the war came about, there were two main alliances, the Triple Entente with Britain, France and Russia and the Central Powers, Austria-Hungary and Germany, however before these alliances came about, there had been many others, that had been made, and dissolved too.

    Shortly after the short war with France, over Alsace and Lorraine (1870-71) that Germany won, leading them to conquer the fertile French Provinces, Germany began looking for allies. Its increasing power was worrying other powers in Europe such as Britain, and realised if it was not careful, it would become surrounded by enemies.

    The man behind the increasing power of Germany, and the foreign affairs, was Imperial Chancellor, Count Otto von Bismarck. He planned on leaving France friendless in Europe, so even if they wished to seek revenge on their provinces, they would not be able to, and so he began negotiating with the powers around Germany, and by 1873, Germany had established two neutral allies, Austria-Hungary and Russia. He drew up the Three Emperors League treaty, which was designed to make the three countries air each other in times of war.

    However, this treaty did not last long, as Russia pulled out five years later, leaving Bismarck, in 1879, to make a new binding treaty now between Germany and Austria-Hungary, or the Dual Alliance. This treaty was designed for if another main power should attack either Empire, the other would remain at least neutral to the other. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary spoke German, had very similar cultures, and were neighbouring countries. This is perhaps why the alliance between the two lasted so long, usual for the treaties.

    Three years after the Dual Alliance had been agreed between Austria-Hungary and Germany, Italy decided to ally itself with them. Although Italy was nowhere near as powerful as Germany, Bismarck thought it would be a useful ally lest the French attacked, and the agreement was made that Germany and Austria-Hungary should come to Italy's aid should France attack Italy, and the other way round, this agreement, in 1882, formed the Triple Alliance.

    The Triple Alliance lasted right until the beginning of the War in 1914, but was dissolved when Italy found a loophole in the agreement, that enabled it to stay out of the conflict. The treaty said they were obliged to help only in a defensive war, either Russia or France attacking, but Italy claimed Germany and Austria-Hungry were launching into a offensive war by attacking France. Italy remained neutral, but there was only a real alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, or the Central Powers.

    For sometime, France was isolated from the rest of Europe as Bismarck had intended, and since the short war, France had suffered, though her overseas trade was still large, she was falling behind Germany in industry. Britain had always been an enemy of France, and was suspicious, and would much rather keep out of Europe's affairs, leaving France with an only possible alliance with Russia, since Russia had ended it's alliance with Germany.

    France and Russia had very different beliefs, the Tsar of Russia strongly believing his power came directly from God, and it was very unlikely that Russia and France could ever become allies, something Bismarck was counting on.

    When Bismarck resigned in 1890, the new German Emperor, Kaiser William II, was even more eager to see the Germany become a powerful and large Empire. He himself had had a very harsh upbringing, being physically disabled, had been forced to the very brink to do all the things a good leader should do, including riding a horse. When he came to the throne he was a very unstable and unpredictable man, who was constantly having to prove himself, and under his reign Germany began to grow even stronger, a huge army, and powerful navy.

    The power of the fast growing German Empire was becoming a large worry for both France and Russia - the one thing they had in common. On 4 January 1894, to the surprise of many, France finally managed to escape the isolation, signing a defensive treaty with Russia, the Dual Alliance. The two powers agreed that they would consult each other if they found themselves at war.

    Russia and France were not the only countries to fear the new German power. At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain had been the most powerful Empire, with the most advanced industry, and navel fleet, even if it did have a small army that was spread out across the world.

    However British power was beginning to decline, as other countries industries were catching up, and not only catching up, but overtaking. Germany was the most threatening to the British Empire, as not only was its empire expanding, and industry blooming, but also with Kaiser as leader, it was rivalling the British navy.

    Kaiser was jealous of the British navy, and set about building up his own, and in a record breaking time of just 14 months, Germany had built its very first Dreadnought, and enormous battleship, completed in December of 1906. A navel race was on between Britain and Germany, and by the time war was declared, Britain was able to summon 49 Dreadnoughts, though Germany only 29.

    Though Germany was losing the navel race, she had successfully brought Britain out of its isolation, and Britain, that was growing increasingly worried, and in 1904 Britain, seeking allies, signed the Entente Cordiale with France, that resolved all former problems between the two Empires.

    Three years later, France's ally, Russia, signed an agreement with Britain known as the Anglo-Russian Entente, and these two agreements Britain had, formed together, the three powers alliance known as the Triple Entente.

    The Triple Entente lasted up to the War, and was less strict that the Triple Alliance. Entente is a French word that means "understanding", and the agreement was more of an understanding between the three powers. They did not have to promise to help one another if war broke out, but there was an understanding between them that they would lend their support.

    The Alliance System was also a very good reason why the war became a World War. The countries that were allies had promised to help each other, so when Austria-Hungary declared war, Germany was also pushed into it. Serbia and Russia had a minor alliance, so in this way Russia became involved, along with France and Britain, chaos.

    Declaration of War

    Britain, France and Russia were worried by Germany's growing power, though this was not the only reason they were so eager to jump into war.

    Russia was a poor infertile country, that struggled to keep up with the rest of the world in farming, trade or industry. Russia did have a huge army, though, with her surplus population, and winning a war would increase Russia's territory, allowing her to establish good trade routes and get the new technology.

    France wanted revenge on Germany after the short war in 1970, it wanted it's fertile provinces back. They wanted to match Germany's power, but the population grew slower, and the farms produced less. The war would win back Lorraine and Alsace, and stop the German power.

    Great Britain wanted to be known as the most powerful Empire again. She was ready to defend her trade routes and her Empire, and by winning a war, could crush the rival's increasing power in industry, colonies and navy.

    Germany was afraid of the other European countries, and Austria-Hungary wished to keep her Empire together, they were also quite ready to launch a war.

    Germany wanted to become the most powerful Empire, mainly the idea of Kaiser Whilhelm II. She knew the other countries is Europe were afraid, and were against her, so striking the first blow would give her the advantage.

    Austria-Hungary ruled over 50 million people, and was divided into 11 different nationalities, many of which wanted to break away from the Empire and have their own independence. Franz Josef thought a war would unite the Empire against the enemy.

    On the 28 June 1914 the spark finally came that set the World War off. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand lead to Austria-Hungary issuing a ultimatum on Serbia, that demanded Serbia to let the Austria-Hungary police into Serbia in order to apprehend the rest of the Black Hand. Serbia refused, thinking this to be Austria-Hungary's attempt to invade and take over and Serbia pleaded to her ally Russia for help. This started the declaration of war made by many countries.

    28 July 1914When Serbia refused Austria-Hungary's ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. She knew Serbia would turn to Russia for help, so in tern, pleaded to Germany for support.
    31 July 1914Russia agrees to mobilise her army to help Serbia. Tsar Nicholas II attempted to stop the war by sending a telegraph to Kaiser, telling him to stop Austria-Hungary, but by 4 p.m. that day he had ordered the troops to mobilise.
    1 August 1914Germany declares war on Russia, but plans to attack France through neutral Belgium, before Russia can attack, in order to avoid being attacked at either side.
    3 August 1914Bound by the alliance to Russia, France declares war on Germany and also to Austria-Hungary.
    4 August 1914Britain declares war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. Though obliged to help France and Russia, her main reason for declaring war was to protect Belgium, that she had a 75 year old treaty with.

    The main powers were all involved now in the war. Britain's colonies also helped with various means, either financially or offering military assistance, these including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. Japan had a military agreement with Britain, declared too war on Germany on 23 August 1914, and Austria-Hungary, two days later declared war on Japan.

    Italy managed to avoid the conflict until May of 1915, but saying Germany and Austria-Hungary had launched an offensive war and she was only to help in a defensive war. Italy had also signed a secret treaty with France just after joining the Triple Alliance, so when she did finally join the war the following year, it was on France's side.

    The USA remained absolutely neutral until 1917, until Germany's sea warfare threatened her shipping, and the USA decided to enter the warfare on the side of Britain. It truly was a war of the world.

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    The Schlieffen Plan

    By 1914, everyone seemed to know that a war was on the verge of break out. The Schlieffen Plan was the first movement that was made in the war movement, a plan devised by Germany in the hopes for a quick victory against France, and then against Russia.

    A dead man's Plan

    The Schlieffen Plan gets it's name from it's creator, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the Chief of German General Staff from 1891 to 1905. He was born in Berlin in 1833, but died in 1912, before the war or a chance to see his plan go into action. Even though he was dead, Germany still decided to use the plan and with only a few slight modifications, it was launched into action. Could Germany win the war with a dead man's plan?

    The main reason Schlieffen was asked to formulate a plan was because of the Franco-Russian Alliance formed 1894 between Russia and France. Bismarck's plan to keep France isolated had failed, shortly after his resignation and the new aggressive Emperor Kaiser. Not only was France no longer isolated, but it was also allied with one of the most dangerous powers - Russia had a huge army, but even more dangerous, if they got into war, Germany would be attacked from both sides.

    The last thing Germany wanted was for her army to have to split up, she knew they would never be able to defeat both the Russians and the French at the same time, which was why Schlieffen was asked to make a war plan - if in the future a war looked likely to commence, they could avoid being attacked at both sides.

    Schlieffen set down to work, and by December of 1905 he had formed his plan.

    Two Stage Plan
    1. According to Schlieffen, it would take Russia at least six weeks to mobilise, France and Germany both about two weeks. He also thought Austria-Hungary would be able to hold of Russia, if the worst came to the worst. Thinking this, he knew France was the most immediate danger, so stage one was to attack France.

    Schlieffen also believed there would be French forts on the border between the two countries, so he planned on sending the army through Holland or Luxembourg, through neutral Belgium and to attack France from the North, a surprise attack on Paris.

    2. While 90% of the Germany army dealt with France, the small remainder would remain to hold off any attack from Russia. The first stage would have approximately four weeks to complete, and once France surrendered, most of the German army would march back to stop the Russian assault.

    Schlieffen's plan was very carefully made, with a lot of thought put into it, though it did seem relatively simple. The most important part of it, relied on the surprise that France would have, seeing German troops marching south to capture Paris. Schlieffen thought they would never react in time, and Paris would be conquered with relative ease.

    In 1905, Schlieffen resigned from his post as the Chief of German General Staff, and his successor, Helmuth count von Moltke was given Schlieffen's plan. He revised Sclieffen's plan and make some slight changes to it. Moltke thought it would be quicker to avoid travelling through Holland, be cutting further through Belgium. Belgium had only a very small army, and wouldn't cause any problems, and anyway, they were neutral. Moltke's plan was also less wide sweeping than Sclieffen's meaning the army had less travel time. He also decided to have 20% of the German army stay behind to hold off Russia, but these were only slight changes.

    The Plan commences

    On 2 August 1914, the Schlieffen plan was set into action, two years after Schlieffen himself had died. The German army set out to invade Luxembourg and Belgium, and four separate German armies powered their way into the small Belgium.

    However Belgium put up much more resistance than Schlieffen or Moltke expected, holding them up for four vital days. In this time the small but well trained British Expeditionary Force landed in France, to help defend Belgium and assist France. Although it was Britain's moral obligation to assist France due to the Triple Entente, there real cause for mobilising was due to the invasion of Belgium.

    In the time Belgium held Germany up, on the 4th August, the King of Belgium, Albert I, sent a plea to Britain for assistance. There had been a treaty between Britain and Belgium since 1839, in which Britain had promised to defend Belgium's neutrality, and due to this Britain decided to help both Belgium and France, and deployed it's soldiers.

    On the eastern side of Germany things were going badly too. Russia mobilised in just 10 days, a significant difference to six weeks and were advancing quickly over Prussian ground. Though the German infantry eventually forced their way into France, many of the troops had to be pulled back to defend the eastern borders.

    France was much more organised than Germany had expected, rushing soldiers from all over the country in cars and trains to meet the oncoming assault. The German armies never managed to reach Paris, instead launched into battle to the east of the capital, in the Battle of Marne, halting the German advance. The Schlieffen Plan had failed.

    Why did the Plan fail?

    There were many reasons the Schlieffen Plan failed, many of them due to the large assumptions Alfred von Schlieffen made when devising it.

    He thought as Russia was so large it would take at least six weeks for her to mobilise, when in actual fact it only took 10 days. He also thought that in that six weeks he would easily be able to defeat France, which of course became out of the question when Russia mobilised so quickly.

    A large assumption he made was that Belgium, with it's tiny army would make no resistance, and let them walk through with ease, which infuriated Albert I and steered him into the resistance. Because of this delay in Belgium, all hope of seizing a surprise attack over France were destroyed, as France found out about the attack and could be prepared to stop the assault, so even if Russia hadn't managed to mobilise so quickly, it was highly unlikely Germany would have overcome France anyway.

    Finally, Schlieffen never expected Britain to get involved. Although he knew about the Triple Entente, and Britain's obligation to help France, he thought after so long caring only for her own affairs, Britain wouldn't be bothered about getting involved. He had forgotten about the Treaty of London, that signed Britain to Belgium's defence, and disregarded it, thinking Britain would never care about an ancient 'scrap of paper' after so long isolated.

    Because of these assumptions and the reaction of the other countries, the Schlieffen Plan failed. The Schlieffen Plan was actually never officially approved by Kaiser, but it was forced into action by the Moltke and the other members German general staff.

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