Count, Alfred von Schlieffen,
was the German Chief of the General Staff between 1891 and 1906.
He formulated a military attack plan,
that would be altered and changed several times until 1914.
He envisaged Russia invading Germany from the east
and France from the west.
In case of a German offensive war the German staff expected
to conquer France in 6 weeks,
and after that they would open a front against Russia.
Like the Kaiser enthousiastically remarked:...
"Paris for breakfast and Moscow for lunch!"
Von Schlieffen believed that the forces sweeping
through Belgium needed to be seven times stronger
than the reserves on the German/French border.
The General staff initially planned to invade the south
of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France,
with 7 armies, as this (Dutch) map explains...
Von Schlieffen retired in 1906 and was replaced by General, Helmuth von Moltke...
In 1913, however,
Von Schlieffen's dying words were reputed to have been:
"Keep the right wing strong".
The new Chief of Staff was not daring
and adapted the plan to his own cautious ways.
The main force was reduced to only three times larger than the reserves.
Von Moltke decided for political reasons to respect the neutrality of the Netherlands,
but invaded at once Luxembourg and Belgium.
Brussels, august 1914...
In the plan,
the modern railways of those days played an important role
in transporting such large amounts of troops...
Later the confidence in railways would prove to have a limited effect.
The weakness of the von Schlieffen-plan was in fact it's speed of implementation.
The Germans themselves were amazed,
they made such a fast progress.
But the railways were ending in Longwy and along the Belgian Border!
From that point transport has to be done with horses and cars.
The transport of supplies and fresh troops could not keep up
with the speed of the advance troops,
who were infiltrated 25 km from Paris.
These advance troops were forced to wait for reinforcements and supplies.
The combined British and French forces fought
with a determination,
that surprised the Germans
and stopped their advance at the river Marne in September 1914.
In fact the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was able
to penetrate the German lines
and threaten their rear.
French troops were hastily transported from Paris
to the Marne with, trains, autocars and taxi-cabs...
At the German retreat of the Battle of the Marne,
the Kaiser immediately replaced von Moltke by General von Falkenhayn (left).
With continued effort the British and French forced
the Germans back to the northern bank of Aisne river,
but were unable to force them out of France.
By September 8, both sides began to dig defensive trenches,
and to reinforce their positions.
Race to the Sea.
On october 12, the Germans decided to outflank the British and French
by going west and then around their enemy.
A race of a series of entangling attacks and counter-attacks developped, as the British and French tried to block them off,
and both sides rushed towards the coast of the North Sea.
In October the region around the river Yzer and Ypres was the scene of many casualties,
as each side tried to break each other's line, to no avail:
the First Battle of Ypres.
The French attacked the German line in the Champagne with similar results.
By the end of the year the front stretched from the sea to the Alps.
This stalemate lasted four years!
The war changed at this point from a mobile war to a static war:
both belligerents were litterarily digging in.
The Von Schlieffen-plan was a total failure!
The Development of the Western Front
For the best and fastest way to understand, how the Western Front developped in the line of time, I do highly recommend this animation of the professional colleagues of BBC WORLD WAR ONE.
You may need to download and install a flash plug-in.
But those few extra seconds make your patience worthwile!
Click on for the link on the map below.
...And after your visit, please, return to my website:
For the BBC Animations, click on the map below:
"Britain and its Empire lost almost a million men during World War One; most of them died on the Western Front.
Stretching 440 miles from the Swiss border to the North Sea, the line of trenches, dug-outs and barbed-wire fences moved very little between 1914-1918, despite attempts on both sides to break through.
Pinpoint key locations along the Western Front, watch the general movements of both sides and view the battles of Ypres, Verdun and the Somme in more detail."
(Before re-editing and re-posting this page, it has been viewed 128 times.)