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Lecture 4

387 - Week 4 – Lecture 1 – the First World War.docx

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HIST 387
Peter Hoffmann

Week 4 – Lecture 1 – the First World War 24/09/2013 Hard to plan in times of war If people say there will be a BEF then it is not sure – will the French invade Belgium before Germany does? = creates an entirely different situation st Schlieffen and his successor Moltke Jr. = the role of the 1 Army was to protect the flank of the main force = if nd rd the main force is the 2 and 3 Army which moves into theArdennes towards Mauberge and the French then nd nd invaded Belgium and attack the flank of the 2 Army then the 2 Army will come to grief If the French from their fortress line to Verdun attack the German mainforce northward then the same thing would happen = flank attack  to achieve something against the foreign force one can attempt a face to face battle but that’s rarely a good idea = somewhat of a gamble depending on many imponderables Classical writers about the 3 Century BC one will always mention the condition of the armies – rested or not rested, well-fed or not well-fed = can make the difference between victory or defeat Given the imponderables  each side has better chances if it tries envelopment or a flanking attack – 5 and 7 th th Army had to protect the German Left flank and the 1 Army the German right flank The French were also in the same situation = they would not wait but attack themselves = ‘the utmost offensive’ action – l’offensive a l’outrance For the Germans, they didn’t/couldn’t know where the French would amass their main force  would it be in Loraine or from Belfort and Epinalle into theAlsace?? Or would it be further north, out of the fortress line? – fortresses that hadn’t existed in 1870 or had been developed after the conflict… WHERE WOULD THE French MAKE THEIR MAIN ATTACK?! Question was in all the German plans for the initial deployment = cannot be equally strong on all possible fronts Thus has to make provision for rapid movement between fronts  withdrawal might even have to be done – to a preconceived line which of course would have to be prepared for such an eventuality: a line to fall back upon that would be defensible Still so uncertain until major forces are committed = impossible to make serious plans about moving a huge force into Belgium and Paris before pivoting and attacking the French rear  it’s a nice idea but when considering all the possibilities in the initial phases of the conflict, it was not something that could seriously be planned Other reasons why it could not seriously be planned also Christopher Clarke – Aussie teaching in and working at Cambridge – when asked why all the powers let themselves become involved in the First World War it was because they accepted the narrative of inevitability = right in many ways? - it is a question of mentality - others explain it differently: Hamilton and Herwig talk about cliques: oligarchies and democracies and parliamentary monarchies and autocratic monarchies = all have the cliques  all keep essential information from the public and the Parliament BUT at the same time: objectively speaking the war was not inevitable = monarchs in all other states that were involved who could have said no  if so, then the governments could not have gone ahead and make war E.g. Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas and George V = French could not have started it all alone and no one would have fought with them: can’t have a war without an enemy!! French had learnt from 1870 that they must not stand in defence but engage in the offence = the mystique of the offensive was adopted Their planning was also without precise aim or goal = general aimless offensive through Lorraine whilst the Russians fought the decisive battles Russians had greater numbers of forces, level terrain all the way to berlin = a russian breakthrough to berlin was expected which would then end the war If the war dragged out, the French would then rely on British intervention = talks regarding this since 1905 and the conclusion of the Entente Cordiale General Staffs had been considering the mechanics of a British intervention but Parliament was never told about this Known though – William II’s friend SirAlfred Bight French also focused on building modernised fortresses In Germany, Chief of the General Staff for Prussia 1857-1871 and German Empire from 1871-1888 Moltke the Elder Successor (LOOK UP) also did not rely on Russian neutrality or friendship  neither expected France to attack Germany alone = concluded that Germany would have to be prepared for a war on 2 fronts = DEFENSIVE WAR But where would one put the emphasis initially? Question could be answered by an assessment of the potential enemy If the Russians were considered very dangerous and strong then something would have to be done about it If the French were equally strong and dangerous it was quite the bind! BUT if one was convinced the Rhine would withstand a French offensive long enough to deal with the Russian attack and if one believed –rightly at the time – that Russian fortifications were inferior to the French ones and Russian mobilisation slower than the French = the initial German effort would go to the East  not in order to pursue and defeat the RussianArmy once and for all, but only to establish a defensible line inside Russian territory Inside the Russian part of Poland – the Russian Kingdom of Poland Moltke showed a particular disinterest in penetrating the Russian spaces = no plan for starting any war: believed and said so that Germany had nothing to gain from any war with Russia but he did have to plan for a conflict that may be imposed on Germany War of 1870-1871 began/had in its first 3 months, the spectacular Battle of Sedan = taken as a motif for the battle painters Especially wonderful painting of Napoleon III handing his sword to the German General on 2 September 1870 = throughout the Bismarckian Reich until 1918 this day was a holiday in German called ‘Sedanstag’ th Peace was not concluded before 8 February 1871 because a republic sprang into existence, raised new levies, established a government in Bordeaux and prolonged the war for 6 months = reality of war  modern war: one would see vast armies – not the limited levies and forces that were controlled by monarchs who were able to pay for them – but national levies with universal military service = THE FUTURE OF WAR Moltke  future war’s could last 7 or 13 years = without any offensive victories, both sides would bring to bear the nearly unlimited forces of the draft = would become a war of attrition Reinforced the perception and conviction that the only war Germany could participate in and fight would be an offensive war  esp. when it included both France and Russia on the opposing side After Moltke’s retirement he was a member of the German Reichstag  during a debate about funding and thus the size of the German army he spoke on the 14 May 1890 and said: ‘the time of cabinet wars is behind us: we now have only national wars. Gentlemen (womens suffrage introduced only in 1918) it can be a seven years war it can become a 30 years war, but it is only the sword which can keep others swords sheathed. Deterrents is what we need. I believe that in all countries, the overwhelming mass of the population want peace, only that not they – the mass of the population – but the parties make the decisions.’ Largely true = once we have voted, we have very little influence: we have to engage in a major movement of public unrest and dissatisfaction in order to have an impact 1891 onwards: Schlieffen was in the same position as Moltke and Waldersee had been as Chiefs of the General Staff BUT there was a difference: Schlieffen: ‘Moltke had Bismarck and I only have the poor emperor’ Bismarck = great eye of international relations and could manage alliances, treaties and relations , balance – even a precarious one – with his treaty system and the reinsurance treaty of 1867 but now, Schlieffen implied, only the Emperor was there’ He also had the certainty – which Bismark had only expectation, fear and apprehension of – of the Franco- Russian alliance = a situation that was much hardened before the conclusion of the convention = known by the visits back and forth of the Russian and French national staffs How long will it be before historians put the Schlieffen plan to rest but consider the situation from both sides of the conflict? For now books are full of the Schlieffen Plan  indicated to us the tremendous arrows of the plans BUT arrows of the German advance are often suggested that this was the plan BUT there was no such plans!! Was there a secret plan for victory? No. Was there an operational plan to advance through Luxembourg and then pivot on Paris? No. = no Schlieffen Plan! Operational directives from August 1914 do not survive and the German public archive which published 16 volumes on WW1 did not publish the operational directives The national archive obscured the true operational directives  what we have, some of it only from recent discoveries in the 1990s, are general mobilisation schedules = give an idea of the expectations of the leadership Expectations were that a French attack might be launched from the fortress line from Toulle to Verdun eastward or through part of Lorraine and theAlsace or both  these eventualities had to be prepared for  this much is shown by the mobilisation plans or schedules Suppressed and then destroyed when the national archive burnt during 1945 Reflections of them exist in private papers BUT nothing which is contemporary – only after the fact notes – still survive There is a memorandum by one of the officers working in the army archive which gives no evidence of any plan to pivot on Paris but he had access to operational directives and any evidence for the Schlieffen Plan just does not seem to exist In any case = Schlieffen – and everyone else who was good as a general staff officer – knew that operational directives never survive the first day of contact or engagement with enemy First day of contact changes everything/a lot Appreciations of Russian, French and BEF forces  their strengths weren’t a surprise – only naïve people were surprised or those confused by conflicting statements from Sir Edward Grey = fundamental problem of German strategy was that a war on two fronts had to be defensive If the Germans drove back the French and Russians = the French would then counterattack which would require more strength in the west, whilst the Russians would then reattack which would require movement of troops to the east also Was a realistic assessment of the situation = Schlieffen was NOT a dreamer Why are we told of a Schlieffen Plan for victory devised in his declining years with his genius which unfortunately had miscarried? Precisely – the point: the defeat and the failure of the Battle of the Marne had to be explained by the officers in charge after the war  in order to explain what had happened, they decided to blame Moltke and Schlieffen One could suggest – not prove or demonstrate – by a selective publication of documents that there was a long- range plan to roll through Belgium and part of France to Paris and then pivot on Paris, move East BUT this was never the plan The real plan: to destroy as many enemy formations as possible on one side and then do the same to the other - Germany would probably not be able to bring the war to an end by military means but only through political means Schlieffen: Moltke had Bismarck and I only have the Emperor Method to achieve this = attack enemy in the flank and in the rear with the largest possible amount of forces e.g. Romans at Cané = make the enemy fight with a reversed front  much confusion fighting with 2 fronts at the same time (though Schlieffen never mentioned Cané  historiography  sought to consider France as one large fortress that could be besieged or defeated BUT this was not true) Schlieffen’s General Staff = had a varied emphasis on east or west In one exercise he would leave 10 divisions in the East and in another 22 and in another 9 (the number of divisions actually there in 1914 and meet the Russians) Corresponding and varying strength in the West also – dependent on the number of divisions in the East also… Greater or smaller numbers were to be in the East and West Schlieffen: in the west always concentrate on the centre and attacking the French left flank through theArdennes Second concern = a more important one? = to show that the German army needed to be expanded When writing the notes found in 1950 and published them as ‘the Schlieffen Plan’= notes made in 1906 after his retirement Notes were designed to show drastically that the German army needed at least 24 more divisions – the French drafted about 80% of their eligible cohorts whilst the Germans drafted 55% of eligible young men In spite of the lower French birth rate, the French army was larger than the German one To this, one must add the Russian army whilst theAustrians could not balance the Russians by themselves The efficiceny of theAustrians was somewhat questionable – Hotzendorff: Keegan ‘produced a magnificent example ofAustrian muddle’in august and September 1914 when he first launched an attack on Serbia, realised the Russians would not stay out and so had to weaken his Serbian force to meet the Russians against whom he did not succeed victory Hotzendorff and theAustrian army were NOT a major force or advantage Schlieffen – saw this BUT it was a question of money and the budget  Reichstag wsa in control and there was no budget if it was not voted by them Like the modern Congress in Washington 1900, 1902, 1905 = still a question of money: much money was going into building a German fleet another reason for reluctance to expand the army was that the government considered that if they drafted more people into army, then they would draft more socialists = would undermine and weaken the army = not everyone shared this belief BUT it was influential Schlieffen calculated that Germany needed 98 divisions but there were only 68 Necessary if the East was somewhat abandoned and the Russians marched into Berlin = there was no adequate to fight in the East Even if the army had expanded – as Ludendorff said – there would have been the major problem: 1) – the troops marching towards the Front and beyond could use railways only as far as the German frontier = the German railheads ended there = then what?! Would the Belgians allow the use of theirs? NO – would destroy them and make them unusable in the event of invasion and the Germans would have to walk a marching core of 3 divisions was strung out on a road as wide as the road would allow – 29km of individuals put on a forced march one might cover 30km in one day, but this would not be possible day after day the normal maximum was about 20km per day the tail of an army corps which was only one in an army = would arrive a day later than the head  the head would then be a days march further in such a condition the corps cannot fight in their brigades FromAachen (?) on the German side of the frontier to ___ on the Marne, the distance is 118 km  to MEAUX!?!?! – it was many km from Liege via Namur(?!) it’s still 367km and as the German force advanced it’s supply lines became longer and longer and the French ones became shorter and shorter of course the French lost territory but they gained mobility and better supplies through shorter supply line the German lost strength in their advance = due to longer supply lines, protection of supply lines, fatigue, lost of momentum, drive and potentially morale meant that more troops were needed BUT they did not become available even if they had been available they would have not have been moved in time to overwhelm the French forces because there were not enough roads  no room for the 8 additional corps or 200,000 men which Schlieffen calculated were needed – almost a third again of the available forces in fragment no. 7 after his retirement, Schlieffen wrote: ‘before the Germans reached the Somme they will have realised like other conquerors before them that they are two weak for the whole enterprise’ how could anyone anticipate that Schlieffen had a plan for victory then??? Historians are beginning to question the idea of a Schlieffen Plan ‘if the French gave up the Oise… the war would be endless’ last memorandum – Schlieffen left the East unprotected hoping the German army would be in Paris before the Russian army was in Berlin = again he was saying increase the Germany army – we don’t have enough troops Moltke Jr. also expected a war of attrition  NOT a short war = some people (beware of those whom cite economics) said that no state has the economic resources for a long war – the money, materials, a production capacity to sustain a long conflict. Well: by 1918 – resources not dreamt of pre-1914 had been employed and raised During the War, Ludendorff wrote to Moltke: ‘the reason that the great decision eludes us lies in the mass armies. Week 4 – Lecture 2 The First World War 24/09/2013 Refusal of the whole German government to increase the size of the GermanArmy = hardly a sign for planning for a war  during and after WW1 Germany generally was accused of being militaristic and that their General Staff plans were plans to first defeat France and its allies, and then dominate the world people are hard put to find evidence for that = evidence goes in a different direction Germany drafted 55% of eligible men annually and France drafted 80% = France’s birth rate was far lower than Germany’s but they had a much larger army Gap of over 1 million men between Russian and French forces compared to Germany and Austria combined No plans for a major offensive  what Moltke planned (in the footsteps of Schlieffen) was counter-offensives in the centre and South whilst any operational directives (not even plans!! Since they only survive day 1 of enemy contact) depended on French deployments  could not be drafted in advance unless there was reliable and incontrovertible evidence of French deployment Unless circ
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