Stalemate in war is when there is a deadlock and neither side can win. There are many reasons for the stalemate of World War 1. Was the stalemate because the Germans knockout blow failed, the nature of weapons as both sides were at the same technology level or was it too ambitious? In fact it was all of these reasons. There wasn’t just one. The plan was also based on too many assumptions: 1. Russia would take 6 weeks to mobilise even though she had been building railways for the last 10 years, railways and transport was crucial for fast mobilisation 2.
The men of the 1st and 2nd Armies could easily walk the large arc in the middle of summer with the heat and other conditions 3. Soldiers would get all the food they needed off the land, they would “Live off the land” 4. They thought that the Belgium’s and BEF (British Expeditionary Force) would be a pushover if they resisted. These are only a summary though. I am now going to through the plan and point out which bits made the stalemate occur. On the 4th August Germany put the Schlieffen Plan into action and attacked Belgium. The first resistance they came up against was the fortress town of Liege.
The Germans tried to capture the 12 fortress’ surrounding Liege which controlled the entire railway and main routes the Germans needed. The first German assaults were beaten off with heavy losses. After six days the Germans brought up their siege guns on trains and smashed the fortresses within four days. The importance of this event is that they slowed the German advance down by a few days and it gave the British and French time to see what the Germans were doing. Also all the heavy bombardment damaged the railways slightly which slowed the Germans down a little.
The Belgian army retreated to Antwerp and so the Germans needed to mask them off and same with the Germans which took up valuable men. As planned the French put there Plan 17 into action which lasted 10-28th August. The French charged straight into Germany and came up against Armies 6 and 7. In 12 days the French lost 211,000 men, including 10% of all their officers. The French lost a lot of men because of the nature of modern weapons such as the machine gun and artillery which I have explained about in a later section.
This battle was also the first example of massive attack = massive failure and the defenders had the advantage. Schlieffen intended armies 6 and 7 to make a controlled withdrawal into Germany to lure France further away from Paris so they when they recognized they had to defend it they would have an extremely long way to travel and may be to late. Moltke on the other hand didn’t like this and so told Prince Rupprecht who was in charge of the 2 armies to counterattack which were the tactics at the time.
People thought you could only win a war by being on the offensive but this was proved wrong throughout the war. The next opposition the German armies 1 and 2 came up against was the B. E. F. (British Expeditionary Force) at the Battle of Mons on the 23rd August. Moltke hadn’t really planet for the B. E. F. because they were so small and if they did join the war you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. He was wrong about this though. At Mons the British lay in a line across the Germans route and fired at the Germans with there .
303 Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifles and with a maximum range of 2,500 yards and in the hands of a well trained soldier he could fire 15 aimed shots with it in a minute. At first the Germans thought they were under machine gun attack but they pushed the British back. The British were treating it as a holding operation. At this battle the B. E. F. suffered 1600 casualties while the Germans suffered 5000 which showed that a well trained army even though it was small was still effective. The B. E. F. retreated to Le Cateau were they performed another holding operation against the Germans.