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Failure of the Schlieffen Plan.

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Introduction

Failure of the Schlieffen Plan. In just over a month of fighting, two deeply disturbing features of the war were evident even to the generals who had unleashed the first campaigns: a quick victory was impossible, and the human and material losses incurred as a result of the industrialization of war preparation were on a scale never before seen. The Schlieffen plan had at first seemed to go according to schedule. Although the Belgians had declared war rather than allow the Germans passage across their borders, their great fortresses had not proved a big obstacle. The right wing had swung along the Channel coast to enter France on August 27, and at one time were within forty miles of Paris. But the British had supplied an unexpectedly large expeditionary force, which helped strengthen the French center; the Russians penetrated into East Prussia and thus compelled the Germans to detach part of their forces from the western to the eastern front; and the poor leadership of Von Moltke had allowed his two armies on the Belgian front to lose contact. The French commander Joffre seized his opportunity to counterattack, and threw in his reserve against the dangerously extended German line to the east of Paris. In the first Battle of the Marne, the Germans were forced to retreat to the line of the river Aisne, where they were able to establish a strong defense line. ...read more.

Middle

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/3d/trench.shtml The First Battle of the Marne marked the end of the German sweep into France and the beginning of the trench warfare that was to characterise World War One. Germany's grand Schlieffen Plan to conquer France entailed a wheeling movement of the northern wing of its armies through central Belgium to enter France near Lille. It would turn west near the English Channel and then south to cut off the French retreat. If the plan succeeded, Germany's armies would simultaneously encircle the French Army from the north and capture Paris. A French offensive in Lorraine prompted German counter-attacks that threw the French back onto a fortified barrier. Their defence strengthened, they could send troops to reinforce their left flank - a redistribution of strength that would prove vital in the Battle of the Marne. The German northern wing was weakened further by the removal of 11 divisions to fight in Belgium and East Prussia. The German 1st Army, under Kluck, then swung north of Paris, rather than south west, as intended. This required them to pass into the valley of the River Marne across the Paris defences, exposing them to a flank attack and a possible counter-envelopment. On 3 September, General Joffre, the French commander, ordered a halt to the French retreat and three days later his reinforced left flank began a general offensive. ...read more.

Conclusion

Water-logged trenches were a constant problem for soldiers on the Western Front. Frontline trenches were usually about seven feet deep and six feet wide. The front of the trench was known as the parapet. The top two or three feet of the parapet and the parados (the rear side of the trench) would consist of a thick line of sandbags to absorb any bullets or shell fragments. In a trench of this depth it was impossible to see over the top, so a two or three-foot ledge known as a fire-step, was added. Trenches were not dug in straight lines. Otherwise, if the enemy had a successive offensive, and got into your trenches, they could shoot straight along the line. Each trench was dug with alternate fire-bays and traverses. Duck-boards were also placed at the bottom of the trenches to protect soldiers from problems such as trench foot. Soldiers also made dugouts and funk holes in the side of the trenches to give them some protection from the weather and enemy fire. The front-line trenches were also protected by barbed-wire entanglements and machine-gun posts. Short trenches called saps were dug from the front-trench into No-Man's Land. The sap-head, usually about 30 yards forward of the front-line, were then used as listening posts. Behind the front-line trenches were support and reserve trenches. The three rows of trenches covered between 200 and 500 yards of ground. Communication trenches, were dug at an angle to the frontline trench and was used to transport men, equipment and food supplies. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWtrenchsystem.htm ...read more.

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