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Why was the First World War not "over by Christmas"?

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Introduction

´╗┐Why Was WW1 Not ?Over By Christmas?? There are many reasons why the First World War was not over by Christmas, as most people at the time predicted, and instead dragged on for another four years. Arguably the biggest factor in the length of the War was the failure of the German army to carry out the Schlieffen plan successfully. Every other European war up until this point had been a quick war of movement, with victory within 3 ? 4 months at the latest. There was no reason for this to be any different, so the Germans stuck with the plan that they had prepared in 1905. The plan was to avoid a war on two fronts by knocking France out of the war with nearly their whole force, before Russia had mobilised (which they estimated would take 6 weeks). The aim was to travel through Belgium to France, therefore bypassing the French army, which was poised to attack Alsace and Lorraine. The armies would split up, with some going to engage the French, whilst two armies looped round Paris and cut off the capital, and the government, to force France into submission. ...read more.

Middle

The Schlieffen plan was relying on a Russia that was as weak as it was in 1905, a backward nation still recovering from a rebellion. The fact was that Russia had spent the best part of 10 years rebuilding its army, upgrading infrastructure, and building a sizeable arsenal of weapons and artillery. Instead of the estimated six weeks to mobilize, two Russian armies were advancing into Germany within 10 days! The major reason that all the nations were able to mobilize much quicker than in previous wars, and something that the Germans counted on the Russians to be lacking in, was a well-connected rail network. This allowed the vast conscript armies to congregate within weeks, rather than waiting months as people trickled into the cities. Because the Germans were held up much more than expected, the French government were able to escape to Bordeaux in the south and continue the war effort. This prevented a quick surrender and meant the war was prolonged. Having realised the Schlieffen plan had been a complete disaster the German commander, General Von Moltke knew the only chance was to outflank the British and the French by travelling northwest towards the coast. ...read more.

Conclusion

To protect themselves from these dangers, the commanders simply ordered the armies to stay put and fortify and expand the trenches, making bunkers and a network of interlinking tunnels and open trenches. The trenches now stretched the length and breadth of France, and the no man?s land in between meant that any assault on the other would be suicidal. In truth, the failure of the Schlieffen plan, the Belgian and British war efforts and new weaponry alone would not have caused such a long war. They, combined with other reasons, led to the digging of the trenches. Arguably, if both armies had not dug in and created trenches, the war would never have slowed, and the mobile battles of the 19th Century would have remained the norm. The main reason for the prolonging of the war was the instinct to dig in to prevent deaths. This changed the war from a quick war of movement to a stagnated stalemate in which neither side could deliver a knockout blow. As Crown Prince Wilhelm said after the Germans had dug in, ?The war is lost. It will go on for a very long time, but it is already lost?. ...read more.

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