In a famous dictum, Clausewitz observed that 'War is a continuation of policy by other means'. Amplifying this, he said that 'policy' --- ie, political consideratioms --- must govern military strategy and operations throughout a war. He averred that it would be a capital error simply to leave it to the generals to decide and act according to purely military factors. Well, the basic thing about 'the Schlieffen Plan' is that it was NOT 'a continuation of policy by other means', but a military substitute for policy. Or, to put it another way, it was an attempt to remedy by military means the bankruptcy of an inept German foreign policy.

An account of German grand strategy in 1914 and its execution must therefore start with a brief summary of this inept pre-war German foreign policy. Bismarck when Chancellor had been very careful to avoid making enemies both on Germany's eastern and her western frontiers. With France all too likely to seek revanche for her defeat of 1870, this was why he concluded the so-called Reinsurance Treaty of friendship with Russia. But in 1890 Bismarck's successor as Chancellor refused to renew this treaty. Now, since Germany was already allied to Austria-Hungary, and Austria-Hungary and Russia were rivals in the Balkans, here were at least the beginnings of the possibility of a European war starting from a regional Balkan conflict.

Then, in 1894, France and Russia signed a treaty of alliance and military assistance. Imperial Germany was increasingly to regard this alliance as 'encirclement', even though the alliance was the result of her own bullying diplomacy conjoined with her formidable military and industrial power. Henceforward, then, Germany faced potential enemies in the West and in the East --- the nightmare of a two-front war. It therefore fell to the German General Staff to find a military answer to this problem created by German diplomacy.

Now, Field-Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the elder, the brilliant victor over Austria and France in 1866 and 1870, had himself studied the problem of such a two-front war. His final answer lay in a defensive in great depth in the West, all the way back from the French frontier on the Vosges through the mountains and forests of the Palatinate to the Rhine, while launching a strictly limited offensive in Poland against Russia. Such a limited victory would, he wrote, 'enable us to move the greater part of the Army to the Rhine, using suitable rail communications.' He would then launch a counter-stroke against the invading French.

If we look forward to 1914 and the failure of the initial French offensive at Morhange-Sarrebourg in Lorraine, we can applaud the soundness and prudence of Moltke's thinking. But Moltke's successor Count von Waldersee was neither sound nor prudent. He actually looked forward to a war with Russia. In fact, his answer to the two-front problem was a preventive, or pre-emptive, war by Germany and Austria against France and Russia. In this eagerness for battle he only reflected the populist and highly influential military prophets of the time --- what one might call the 'von Liddell-Harts' --- visionaries like von der Goltz and von Bernhardi. Goltz, for instance, preached that Germany could only achieve greatness and world power by means of a mass war of expansion.

In discussing the causes of the Great War and the creation of the Western front, it is important never to forget the pre-war climate of German opinion: the romantic exaltation of the warrior, the belief in German power and German destiny. These were sentiments common to the Kaiser, to his generals and admirals, and to bourgeois newspaper readers.

Now we come to Count Schlieffen himself, who took over from Waldersee as Chief of the Great General Staff in 1891. The signature in 1892 of a military convention between France and Russia, precursor of the full alliance of 1894, confirmed Schlieffen in a belief that Germany's best chance lay in first decisively defeating France, and then switching the bulk of the army by rail across the Continent to defeat Russia. Schlieffen therefore also rejected the elder Moltke's solution of a defence in great depth in the West coupled with a limited offensive in the East. But in any case, whereas Moltke's overall war strategy had been purely defensive, with strictly limited operational objectives in both west and east, Schlieffen aimed at a total victory of annihilation over France. This concept and alternative ways of achieving it Schlieffen explored year by year in staff rides and war-games. In December 1905 he embodied the final development of his evolving thought in a memorandum handed to his successor as Chief of the Great General Staff, the younger Moltke, nephew of the great Moltke. It is this memorandum which constitutes what has become known famously as 'the Schlieffen Plan'. However, it must be made clear straightaway that this was NOT a 'plan' in the sense of a cut-and-dried and detailed operational directive, such as Haig's and Rawlinson's orders for the Second Battle of the Somme on 8th of August 1918, or SHAEF's plan for the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944. Rather, it was a broad strategic concept coupled with a discussion of the problems and possibilities.

Schlieffen saw that the defeat of France could not be achieved by a frontal offensive across the 1871 Franco-German frontier because the new French fortifications running from Verdun to Belfort were too strong. The only answer was to turn this fortified belt by sweeping through Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland --- a triple violation of neutrality, with crucial political implications.

Now Schlieffen was a military doctrinaire of the Liddell-Hart type who had come to see --- and I quote --- 'the whole essence of the history of warfare' as lying in 'attacking the enemy in flank and rear'. He regarded the Roman victory at Cannae by means of a double envelopment as the very acme of the military art. In other words, he was an arrows-on-the-map strategist, a single-formula man.


sch-liefIn this he makes a total contrast with the elder Moltke, whose campaigns were based on careful calculations of speed of mobilisation and deployment, the capacity of railway lines, and the consequent balance of numbers in the field; and whose actual operations do not look at all diagrammatically elegant. It could be said that whereas the elder Moltke saw modern war rather like a huge industrial business, Schlieffen saw it as a game of manoeuvre --- worse, a gamble. And his mis-called 'Plan' reflected this.

Firstly, he allotted the overwhelming bulk of the German Army to the West, leaving only a defensive screen in East Prussia to face the Russians while their expectedly slow and clumsy mobilisation was going on. A speedy total victory over the French would then enable Germany to transfer the main body of her army by rail in time to meet and decisively beat the Russians. Secondly, Schlieffen proposed to annihilate the French Army by means of a gigantic wheeling movement through Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg pivoting on the then German fortress of Metz. To this movement he allotted 36 army corps, as against only five corps south of Metz. This immense strength would enable the German army constantly to outflank the French left wing. Let me quote Schieffen himself:

By attacks on their left flank we must try at all costs to drive the French eastward against their Moselle fortresses, against the Jura and Switzerland. The French army must be annihilated.

It is essential to form a strong right wing, to win the battle with its help, to pursue the enemy relentlessly with this strong wing, forcing him to retreat again and again...

But the essence of the plan lay in the initial surprise, suddenly presenting the French with the fait accomplit of a German front far outflanking their own. This meant in turn that in a European crisis Germany must steal a march on France in terms of ordering mobilisation.

In his memorandum, Schlieffen sketched in outline the hoped-for course of the campaign. He concluded that the fortress of Paris, with its wide circle of forts, must itself be outflanked and masked by his enormous wheeling movement. This alone would require thirteen army corps --- eight of which did not exist in Schlieffen's time, but which he assumed in his grand way would be provided by the government.

Thus Germany's fate was to be staked on this one tremendous outflanking movement, with its colossal marching distances, and with victory only coming as a prize at the end of it all. There could not be a greater contrast with the elder Moltke's campaigns, which, like Wellington's, were a series of expedients to meet changing situations. As Moltke had once said, 'No plan survives contact with the enemy.' For Wellington and Moltke both understood that what Clausewitz called 'friction', what we might call 'Sod's Law', will in the event undo the most perfect of paper strategies.

Not so Schlieffen. We find that some absolutely fundamental operational questions are not answered by him. For instance, how could his great array of armies be kept aligned as a kind of single swinging gate for up to a month? In Schlieffen's vision --- fantasy would be a better word --- the supreme commander would sit in a headquarters full of telephones controlling the advance (in his words) 'like battalion drill.'

Now, as has been mentioned, the key to the elder Moltke's military thinking had lain in logistics --- the number and capacity of railway lines available to both sides, and hence the nunber of troops they could deploy and maintain on a given front in a given time. With Schlieffen, logistics came second to the grandiose arrows on the map. He certainly did foresee that German strength must wane the further the advance progressed, that the margin of superiority needed for victory would narrow and narrow, but nevertheless he had no remedy to offer. It is curious that Schlieffen's memorandum, for all its soaring strategic vision, is marked by undertones of doubt and pessimism as to whether the German army would be strong enough to pull it off.

Schlieffen's successor as Chief of the Great General Staff, the younger Moltke, has been accused of fatally spoiling the simplicity of Schlieffen's deployment by strengthening the defensive left wing south of Metz at the expense of the marching right wing. Certainly he allotted extra formations to his left as they became available. But the marching wing remained at Schlieffen's figure of 36 army corps. That was in any case the maximum that could be deployed, moved and supplied by available railways and roads.

What the younger Moltke did alter was Schlieffen's blithe intention to violate the neutrality of Holland as well as Belgium and Luxembourg. Moltke wisely reckoned that Germany would need a neutral Holland in wartime as a source of imports. Instead, he calculated that meticulous staff-work would enable the extreme right-flank German armies [the First, von Kluck, 320,000 men; the Second, von Bulow, 260,000 men] to deploy into Belgium via a narrow corridor astride Liege. So it proved in the event -- not least due to the success of the German mobile heavy artillery in smashing the Liege forts.

The trouble was that this exclusion of Holland actually sharpened the political crisis of July-August 1914. Since the modern concrete forts ringing round Liege blocked the corridor through which the German right wing must now deploy, it was absolutely essential that they be seized by a surprise blow as soon as war was declared --- and that meant a fortnight before full mobilisation was completed and the main armies began their advance. In other words, the Schlieffen strategy as amended by the younger Moltke demanded the immediate violation of Belgian neutrality in case of war.

Let me sum up in terms of a future European crisis the consequences of Schlieffen's strategic concept as altered by the younger Moltke. Firstly, it meant that an Austrian war with Russia automatically entailed an attack on France by Austria's ally, Germany. In other words, a Balkan quarrel must mean a general European war. Secondly, since speed was of the essence of the Schlieffen strategy, Germany must if possible order mobilisation no later than Russia and France. Here was an irreversible, unstoppable military timetable that no subsequent crisis diplomacy could affect.

And there was a third consequence. The German ultimatum to Belgium and Luxembourg on 2 August 1914 demanding free passage for her armies was a clear breach of her guarantee of Belgian neutrality under a Treaty of 1839. This ultimatum was therefore just what Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, needed to swing the Liberal Cabinet towards going to war instead of staying neutral. Next day, 3 August, Germany declared war on Belgium and France, and London received the news that German troops were already on the soil of Luxembourg and Belgium. For the Liberal Cabinet in London, this was the clincher, since Britain too was a guarantor of Belgian neutrality under the Treaty of 1839.

Thus by the 4th of August 1914 the direct consequence of the Schlieffen strategy as altered by Moltke was that Germany and her ally Austria had now to fight Britain and the British Empire as well as France and Russia.

In the short term, this meant that the British Expeditionary Force would extend the French left wing by the width of one army of four (later rising to six) infantry divisions, so considerably diminishing the impact of the great German outflanking movement.

Germany's fate --- and the future shape of the whole European conflict ---- therefore now more than ever depended on Schlieffen's strategic concept succeeding operationally in the field.

There is not the space here to give a blow by blow account of the German advance to the Marne and the allied retreat, of which full accounts are given in Mons: the Retreat to Victory by John Terraine, and my own book, The Swordbearers. The essential point is that Schlieffen's beautiful arrows on the map fell victim almost immediately to 'friction', or 'Sod's Law', or the elder Moltke's dictum that no plan survives contact with the enemy.

The outermost and biggest German army, Kluck's First, blundered into the BEF at Mons instead of widely outflanking the whole allied line. A French counter-stroke at Guise against Kluck's lefthand neighbour, Bulow's Second Army, dislocated the German advance by inducing Kluck to swing inwards to Bulow's aid. Henceforward the German march was no tidy alignment, but a jostling to and fro, with gaps opening between the armies as they lost co-ordination.

Nonetheless, up to the last week of August Schlieffen's strategic concept had so far been broadly implemented, with the German armies now lying in a gigantic arc from Picardy to Switzerland. However, because of Belgian demolitions of vital rail tunnels in the Ardennes, the two opposite wings of the German array were without lateral rail communications except by means of immense detours through Aachen. In early September it was to take sixteen days for one corps to move from the German left wing to the right wing.

On the other hand, the French armies at the end of August now formed the periphery of a web of rail communications centred on Paris --- the traditional strategic advantage of interior lines in a technologically new form. Already the French C-in-C, Joffre, was railing troops across from his right wing to reinforce and extend his threatened left wing.

What is more, German lines of communication from the rear up to the front were in little better case than their lateral routes. The supply problem of Schlieffen's outflanking armies grew worse and worse the further they marched from their railheads. In fact, they lived on the country just like a pre-industrial army of the Napoleonic period.

And Schlieffen's dream that the distant battle would be directed by means of the telephone became a reality of shouted but barely heard exchanges over ever-lengthening and unboosted landlines, or of short-range Morse signals from a handful of primitive radios in horse-drawn carts.

As the advance had gone on week by week, men and horses alike were brought to the brink of exhaustion, and beyond, by the constant marching and manoeuvring. And still there was no decisive victory, which in any case Schlieffen himself had always intended as the final prize of his great outflanking manoeuvre.

This is surely the most puzzling aspect of his entire concept. After all, it is customary for the pursuit to follow victory in battle --- not the other way round. Look at the German 1940 triumph in the West, which began with the breakthrough on the Meuse. Look at Second Alamein and the pursuit afterwards of Rommel's army into Tunisia. Look at Sir Wiliam Slim's initial victory in central Burma in 1945, which was then followed by the chase to Rangoon.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the nerve of the younger Moltke, a sensitive and highly-strung man, began to crumble under the strain. There he was, remote from the front at his HQ, first back in Coblenz, and then later in Luxembourg. Even though by the first week of September German troops were within 30 miles of Paris, Moltke was, according to the German Foreign Secretary who saw him at this time, 'by no means in a cheerful mood inspired by victory.' Moltke told him:

'We've hardly a horse in the army that can go out of a walk. We must not deceive ourselves. We have had successes, but we have not yet had victory. Victory means annihilation of the enemy's powers of resistance. When armies of millions of men are opposed, the victor has prisoners. Where are ours? There were some 20,000 taken in the Lorraine fighting, another 10,000 here and perhaps another 10,000 there. Besides, the relatively small number of captured guns shows me that the French have withdrawn in good order and according to plan. The hardest work is still to be done. In fact, as is now well recognised, the French and their British ally had not withdrawn in good order and according to plan. Their retreat had also been a confused scramble by ever more exhausted men and horses.

Nevertheless, by the first week of September the German strategic plan was already falling apart because of the gulf between Schlieffen's pre-war grandiose vision and the actual operational realities in the field. It is sometimes alleged that the fatal German mistake was to pass to the east of Paris rather than to the west of it in accordance with 'the Plan'. But the truth is that the numbers of men allotted by Schlieffen and Moltke to the outflanking wing were just not enough, given inevitable wastage, to maintain the requisite width of front. Willy-nilly the German armies had to close to their left in order to avoid ever widening gaps between them. To swing west and south round the fortress of Paris proved a sheer impossibility. So instead Kluck's First Army had no choice but to pass to the east of Paris, direction south-eastwards.

It is true that Moltke had withdrawn two corps from his right wing to send to East Prussia, where the Russian army had begun a formidable offensive much sooner than expected. But this was not enough to make the difference between going round Paris and going east of it. So even leaving aside French counter-manoeuvres, the Schlieffen strategy as conceived by its author was now anyway collapsing under the weight of its own grandiosity.

Just the same, the fact that the extreme German right-flank had passed east of Paris gave Joffre, the French commander-in-Chief, his opportunity to outflank the outflankers. So now it is time to turn from the younger Moltke on the verge of a nervous breakdown to the amazingly unflustered Joffre getting outside two colossal meals a day and enjoying plenty of restorative sleep.

To give the measure of Joffre's unflappability, he had already suffered two crushing defeats in the course of the campaign --- the collapse of his initial 'Plan 17', the offensive into Lorraine, and the no less bloody defeat of his attempted counter-stroke in the Ardennes at the time the British were fighting off von Kluck at Mons. Joffre had indeed been completely taken by surprise by the wide westward extension of the German front under Schlieffen's strategy. Since then he had seen his left-flank armies haplessly falling back over the Marne towards the Seine east of Paris. And yet by the last week of August Joffre was masterminding a fundamental redeployment from his defensive right wing in the fortress belt from Verdun to Belfort across to his left. A new army, the 6th, was being formed to the west of the BEF, so outflanking the German outflankers.

Thus by the beginning of September the entire campaign was in a state of flux, with both sides exhausted, but with the Germans still holding the initiative --- still slogging forward, buoyed up by the hope that final victory was near, while the allied troops were still retreating and retreating, with all the resulting discouragement.

It is too easy to look back in hindsight on the famous Battle of the Marne and see the German defeat at the hands of Joffre's counterstroke as inevitable. But this was not the case. Even though the Schlieffen strategy as such had disintegrated, the Germans could still have won their victory --- not so much because of the battle situation, but because of the vulnerability of vital French rail communications.

On 1 September Joffre ordered his armies back to a line Verdun---Bar-le-Duc---Vitry-le-Francois---Arcis-sur-Aube, and the line of the Seine through Nogent, with the BEF at Melun. And this meant that, despite his cool leadership and unshakable will, Joffre stood at last on the brink of catastrophe.

For a retreat to this new front would leave him only three lateral railways from Paris --- the hub of the whole French rail network --- to his armies of the centre and the right flank. One line would be dangerously near the battle-front in Lorraine. The other two meant circuitous routes via Dijon. In any event, a retreat to this new front meant that the French Army would have cumulatively lost half their railway supply depots since the beginning of the campaign. In the judgment of a French railway expert: 'In a short time we should have been placed in the iumpossibility of keeping our armies alive and giving them the means to fight.'

In fact, there was a much more immediate danger. If von Kluck could march just another 30 miles and take Melun, on the line Paris-Dijon, from the BEF, then France and the French armies would be cut in half. This is quite clear from the map of the French rail network in 1914.

It is really surprising that the classic accounts of the 1914 campaign, such as the British Official History or Liddell-Hart's The First World War, virtually ignore this absolutely key question of rail communications. They concentrate almost entirely on the manoeuvres and collisions of the opposing armies, almost as if this were a Napoleonic campaign. More to the point still, Schlieffen himself in his drafts and memoranda for 'the Plan' makes no mention of the French rail network as an objective --- let alone the primary objective --- of his great wheeling movement. And the younger Moltke in the actual campaign crisis at the beginning of September 1914 equally neglected the decisive opportunity offered by a mere 45-kilometer further advance by von Kluck to Melun.

Why did Moltke neglect it? In the first place, he was far off in Luxembourg and out of touch with his battling armies. He simply did not realise that Kluck now lay so far to the south. But, secondly, he like Schlieffen thought of railways only in terms of the initial deployment or aufmarsch, not in terms of operations. In the German staff mind, the object of manoeuvre in the field was the enemy army's flank, not his rail communications. This is especially surprising in view of the fact that the General Staff had originally planned Germany's own national rail system, and that the victories of 1866 and 1870 had been based on rail communications.

In regard to the Battle of the Marne, there was no objective open to the Allies behind the German front as vital and accessible as was Melun (that key to the last lateral French rail route) for the Germans. A blow towards Melun on 5 and 6 September might therefore have paralysed Joffre's counter-stroke. With the Melun area in their hands, the Germans would have needed only to dig and wire themselves in, as they were to do later on the Aisne.

To return to the battlefield as it was and not as it might have been, the climax of the campaign took the form of a confused encounter battle instead of the effortless sweeping of the French against the Swiss frontier envisaged by Schlieffen. The outcome of that battle depended partly on the accuracy of the readings of the shifting situation by the opposing commanders-in-chief, partly on their resulting operational deployments, but perhaps largely on their comparative nerves and wills to win.

All that needs to be said about nerve is that Moltke lost his completely, suffering a total breakdown, and Joffre did not. It is fascinating, even if idle, to speculate how the Battle of the Marne would have gone if the Germans had been commanded by a general like Guderian, and the French by a general like Gamelin.

This is not the place even to summarise the ins-and-outs of the battle itself, the course of which is covered in detail in Mons: the Retreat to Victory and The Swordbearers. It is sufficient to say that Joffre, on learning from British air reports that the German right wing had passed east of Paris, ordered a general counter-offensive to be launched on 6 September against both sides of the huge German salient between Verdun and Paris. Just about at the same time, Moltke, reading the map in much in the same way, ordered his two outermost right-wing armies (Kluck and Bulow) to halt and make a defensive flank facing towards Paris. This order, which in its detail did not correspond at all with his armies' actual current positions, marks the final demise of the Schlieffen concept, and hence of the entire German grand strategy for winning a European war at a stroke.

Nonetheless, a resolute German commander might still have won the encounter battle that now took place. During the first three days of the Battle of the Marne, the Germans on the ground were more than holding their own against what was not so much a smashing allied counter-blow as a sluggish, fumbling, forward movement that in some places had been stopped or repulsed. The one worrying factor for the German high command was a gap between Kluck's First Army and Bulow's Second (covered only by a cavalry corps) into which the BEF was slowly plodding north of the Marne. At this point there followed the notorious episode of Colonel Hentsch's mission to the front, with full powers from Moltke to make up his own mind on the spot and issue the appropriate directive to the German right-wing. As we know, that directive ordered a general retreat to the Aisne in order to re-unite First and Second Armies.

But was this order inevitable? In the judgment of General de Gaulle: 'There were in the line on 8 September eighty French and British divisions against eighty-one better German. From the material point of view, nothing ordered the enemy to retreat.'

So it could be said that the Battle of the Marne was decided not by the brilliant strategy of Joffre and/or Gallieni, nor by the German change of direction to the east of Paris, nor even by the fighting itself. Indeed, there was no real battle of the Marne in the sense of a hard-fought encounter. Before such a battle could be really joined, the victory was handed to the allies by a failure of nerve on the part of the German high command.

The critical moment when a war of manoeuvre began to change into a war of position is marked by Moltke's order of 12 September to his erstwhile 'Schlieffen-Plan' right-wing armies to entrench themselves defensively on the Aisne. This new strategy was re-affirmed by Falkenhayn on 15 September after he took over from the broken Moltke. When in the next two days the allies attacked the German position in the First Battle of the Aisne, there was seen the pattern in embryo of the abortive allied offensives of the next three years --- troops advancing in the open cut down by small-arms fire from defenders in trenches and by artillery bombardment. In short, Moltke's and Falkenhayn's resort to the defensive, and to positional warfare, and the resulting First Battle of the Aisne, marks the moment of birth of the Western front.

The so-called 'race to the sea', that series of attempts of both sides to outflank the other, does not really constitute a continuing war of manoeuvre, because neither side had the requisite advantage of numbers or an appropriate strategic plan. Instead, as the armies lapped each other all the way to the coast, the trench stalemate hardened from the Aisne northwards like a creeping paralysis. With the conclusion of the drawn encounter battle of First Ypres, the Western Front was complete. Yet if the Western Front was the tremendous consequence of the failure of the Schlieffen 'Plan' to defeat France, there were other consequences, no less tremendous in terms of the shape of the Great War, which sprang from 'the Plan's' incidental successes. For when the Western Front solidified in the autumn of 1914, Germany was left in occupation of Luxembourg, almost all of Belgium, and eleven French departments, including one of France's major industrial regions.

The strategic effect of this partial success of the Schlieffen 'Plan' was to prove decisive, for it dictated allied strategy on the Western Front over the next four years. The German occupation of so much of northern France --- 'the Germans at Laon' as Clemenceau put it --- laid an irresistible compulsion on French governments and commanders-in-chief to try to evict the enemy. Hence the vain French offensives from late 1914 through 1915 and again in 1917. Secondly, Britain, as the junior ally in size of army, had no alternative but to join with the French in attempting to throw the Germans out.

The Germans, for their part, had only to dig themselves ever deeper in, and hold on to the conquered territories as a bargaining chip in any peace process. No posture in war is stronger than the strategically offensive occupation of ground coupled with a tactical defensive. This meant that, granted the nature of the military technology of the time, the battlefield advantage lay all with the Germans. This was especially true in regard to the British, creating and arming a mass citizen army from scratch. The essential dilemma for the British command in 1915 and 1916 was that they were caught between the political compulsions to attack, and the fact that in front of them lay the best army in the world in ever stronger defences. The nature of this cruel, inescapable, and insoluble dilemma has never been recognised by the facile detractors of the British commanders-in-chief, Sir John French and Sir Douglas Haig.

Moreover, the Schlieffen 'Plan's' overall failure but partial success wrecked any prospect of ending the war by a compromise peace. Since Imperial Germany's occupation of Belgium and northern France served as both a gauge of military success and also a potent bargaining counter, she could, and did, lay down highly expansionist war aims. Such war aims, or peace terms, France and Britain could not possibly accept while they still believed they could eventually defeat Germany ---as in the end they did. This is essentially why the peace feelers of 1916 and 1917 came to nothing.

To sum up: there has been so much historical criticism of the failure of Schlieffen's vision of winning the war in six weeks that it has been too easy to forget that the Germans did nevertheless achieve such a success in terms of territorial conquest as to shape the whole future course of operations on the Western Front, and to ensure that final victory in the Great War would only result from a fight to the bitter end.

Further Reading
Barnett, Correlli, The Swordbearers: Studies in Supreme Command in the First World War (Cassell Military Paperbacks, 2000)
Terraine, John, Mons: the Retreat to Victory (Wordsworth Military Library, 2002)
Strachan, Hew, The First World War, Volume I: To Arms (Oxford University Press, 2001)
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