A School History of the Great War - Chapter 8
The War in 1914
German Plan of Attack. -- As soon as the German leaders had determined upon war, their military machine was set in motion. The plan was first to attack France and crush her armies before the slow-moving Russians could get a force together; and then, after the defeat of France, to turn to the east and subdue Russia. The success of the plan was dependent upon the swift overthrow of France; and this in turn hinged upon the question as to whether German armies could invade France before the French were ready. Speed was the essential thing, and in order to gain speed Germany committed one of the greatest crimes in modern history.
From the nearest point on the German boundary to Paris is only one hundred and seventy miles. But no -rapid invasion of France could be made in this direction for two reasons: first, because of the very strong -forts which protected the French frontier; and second, on account of the nature of the land, which presents to the east a series of five easily defended ridges, each of which would have to he stormed by an invader. A German attack directly across the French frontier could move but slowly past these natural and military
obstacles; and the French nation would have ample time to mobilize its forces.
Consequently the German military leaders determined to attack France from the northeast. Here a comparatively level plain stretched from Germany through Belgium and France up to Paris itself. Many good roads and railways traversed the land. Few natural barrlers existed to aid the (defenders, and France, trusting to the neutrality of Belgium, had no strong fortifications on her northeastern frontier. One obstacle to German invasion existed; it was what the German Chancellor once' called "a scrap of paper"- --a promise to respect the neutrality of Belgium, which Russia, France, and England had agreed to by formal treaties. Similar treaties guaranteed the neutrality of Luxemburg, a small country east of Belgium. Upon these promises France had (depended for the protection of her northeastern border; for the German Empire had accepted all the rights and all the duties of the treaties made by Prussia. But now, under the plea of necessity which "knows no law," the German rulers (let ermined to break their promises, violate the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg, and crush France before an aroused and alarmed world could interfere.
Belgium Blocks the German Plan. -- The invasion of Belgium had two results which the Germans had not foreseen. In the first place, it brought Great Britain immediately into the war to the aid of Belgium and France. In the second place, the Belgian king and people refused to be bought off with a promise of compensation; they made the high decision to defend their country as long as possible against the terrible German army-machine. Said the Belgian king: "A country which defends itself commands the respect of all; that country cannot perish." This action of Belgium disarranged the German army plans; instead of reaching Paris according to schedule, the Germans were delayed in Belgium for ten (lays. These ten days were full of horror and suffering and defeat for the brave Belgians; but they are precious delays in the light of history. They gave time for the French to mobilize their armies and bring them up to the northeast; and they enabled Great Britain to send across the English Channel her first hundred thousand troops. In this way Paris was saved from capture, and France from conquest; and probably the whole world from German domination. The German plans for world conquest met their first defeat at the hands of brave little Belgium. The would-be conquerors had forgotten to include in their time-table the elements of honor, I)patriotism, and self-sacrifice.
The German Advance. - Luxemburg was occupied without resistance, for that little country had no army. On August 4, 1914, the German armies attacked the Belgian fortress of Liege (lee-ézh'), and within twenty-three days Belgium was overrun, its capital taken, and all the important places except Antwerp captured. After
the delay in Belgium, the main German armies advanced into France. Here they were met (August 21-23) by French and British troops; but the defenders were not yet strong enough to stop the German advance. For twelve days they fell back toward Paris, fighting continually, until the invaders were within twenty miles of the city. The French government and archives were withdrawn from Paris to Bordeaux in the south-west, so imminent seemed the capture of the capital. The battle line now extended for one hundred and seventy-five miles eastward from. near Paris to the fortress of Verdun.
The First Battle of the Maine. In the meantime the French commander, General Joffre , had secretly been collecting another army with which to attack the invaders on the flank from the west. At the right moment he hurled this army upon the German flank, while the men on the main battle line were commanded to "face about an(l accept death rather than surrender." On September 6-17 took place the first great battle of the Marne, during which the Germans, under these new attacks, were compelled to retreat fifty miles from their most advanced position. The French armies had rescued (l Paris in the nick of time. The French government once more returned to its capital. "France had saved herself and Europe.''
The Race to the Coast. - On reaching the river Aisne (an) the German armies had time to entrench themselves and thus beat off the heavy attacks of the French amid British (September 12--17'). The Allied armies in turn began to entrench opposite the German positions. But both armies turned toward the north in a race to reach the North Sea and outflank the enemy. The Germans were particularly anxious to reach Calais and cut the direct line of communications between England and France. Antwerp surrendered to the Germans on October 9; Lille on the 13th.
In tremendous massed attacks the Germans sought in vain to break through the British lines (Battle of Flanders, October i ~ to November 15). The German losses were upwards of 150,000 mcn. Omi tile coast the Belgians cut the dikes of the river Yser and flooded the neighboring lowlands, thus putting a stop to any further advance of the enemy.
Trench Warfare. -- By this time the combatants had reached a temporary deadlock. Both had adopted trench tactics, and for over three hundred miles, from the sea to the Swiss border, two systems of entrenchments paralleled one another. The trenches were protected in front by intricate networks of barbed wire. Looked at from above, the trenches seemed to be dug with little system. But they rigidly adhered to one military in axiom, - that fortifications must not continue iii a straight line, because such straight trenches are liable to be enfiladed from either end. hence the trenches curve and twist, with here amid there support- in g trenches and supply trenches. Sometimes the trenches are covered; sometimes dugouts and caves are constructed. Every turn or corner is protected with machine-inns. in some portions of the line these trenches faced one another for over four years with scarcely any chance in their relative locations.
German Treatment of Occupied Territory. -- Eastward of the German trenches lay all of Belgium excel)t a very small corner, and the richest manufacturing districts of France, including eighty per cent of the
iron and steel industries, and fifty per cent of the coal. On the other hand the Allies had occupied only a small section of German territory at the southern end of the line, in Alsace.
German occupation of Belgium and northeastern France was accompanied by horrible barbarities and systematic frightfulness, which. were in violation of the Hague Conventions as well as of other laws and usages of civilized warfare. The aim at first was to terrorize the people and reduce them to a condition of fear and of servility to the conquerors. Men and women were executed without adequate evidence or trial; many German soldiers were quartered in the homes; at the slightest sign of resistance innocent persons were punished for the guilty; immense fines and forced contributions were imposed upon the communities; furniture, works of art, beautiful buildings, and historic structures were ruthlessly pillaged and destroyed. In the second place, the Germans began a systematic plundering of the occupied country, taking for transportation to Germany anything they deemed useful or valuable. Nearly every article made of metal, wool, rubber, or heather was seized. Machinery from Belgian and French factories was taken to German establishments. Households were compelled to surrender bathtubs, door knobs and knockers, kitchen utensils, gas fixtures, bedclothes, etc. Food, farm animals, and ofarm products were confiscated; amid the population was saved from actual starvation only by the energies of Belgium's friends in France, England, and America. At a later time, a third policy of the Germans was to drag Belgian and French young men and women away from their families and relatives and compel them to \work far from. their homes in factories, fields, and mines. Probably more than two hundred thousand persons were forced into this industrial slavery. Finally, where the Germans were forced to retire from the lands they had occupied(l in northern France and in Belgium, they sought to reduced much of the evacuated territory to a desert condition. Not only were bridges and roads destroyed but houses, factories, Audi churches were leveled to the ground, and the foundation walls and cellars were obliterated. In Some parts of France even the fruit trees and grapevines, the product of many years' growth and care, were systematically destroyed, and everything which might make the land habitable disappeared.
The War in the East. As has already been explained. time German military planners had counted upon a rapid crushing of France by way of Belgium before Russia should have time to complete her military preparations for attacking eastern Germany. But during the time lost through the unexpectedly resistance of Belgium huge Russian armies were gathered together in Russian Poland for an invasion of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The western border of Russian Poland is less than two hundred miles from Berlin. But Russia could not advance along this road without running the risk of having the Germans from the north and the Austrians from the south cut off her armies from their sources of supply in Russia. In other words, Russia dared not advance on Berlin without first driving the Germans out of East Prussia and the Austrians from Galicia. Hence the plan of her campaign in 1914 was to invade these two provinces.
Battle of Tannenberg. - Two Russian armies entered East Prussia in the middle of August. At first they met with success. The nature of time country, however, was against them, as there was a chain of almost impassable lakes, marshes, and rivers stretching across their route. In this (difficult territory they were surprised by German reinforcements which had been rushed to the east. In the battle of Tannenberg (August 26-3 in), the German troops under time command of General von Hindenberg inflicted a crushing defeat upon the
Russians, capturing 70,0cc men and large quantities of supplies. Hindenburg followed up his success, and the Russians were completely expelled from East Prussia.
The Russians Overrun Galicia. --- The second part of the Russian plan, the invasion of Galicia, was more successful. In September the important city of Lemherg was taken, and time fortress of Przemysl (pshem'ishl) was besieged. By December almost time whole province was in Russian hands. South of Galicia, separating it from Hungary, are time Carpathiain Mountains. Russian troops penetrated the passes of this mountain wall and conducted a series of successful raids upon the plains of northern Hungary.
The Russian Situation at the Close of 1914. At the end of the year Russia, while she had achieved success in Galicia, had failed in East Prussia. An advance toward Berlin was for the time out of time question. indeed the Germans had themselves taken the offensive and had entered Russian Poland. In October an advance of German and Austrian troops threatened Warsaw, the most important city in Poland. The Russians in spite of strong efforts were unable to drive their enemies entirely out of this region. On the whole, therefore, the Russian situation at the end of 1914 was disappointing. Russia's accomplishment consisted of her victories in Galicia, and, probably more important, the drawing of German troops from, the western front and the consequent weakening of Germany's offensive in France and Belgium. Russia was no farther on the road to Berlin than at the opening of the war.
Serbian Resistance to Austria. - An Austrian attempt to overwhelm Serbia in time first weeks of the war met with disastrous failure. This was clue to two causes: 1. the brave resistance of the Serbian troops; (2) the fact that the greater part of the Austrian forces had to be used for defenses against the Russian invaders of Galicia. Serbia after severe fighting compelled the Austrians to retreat beyond their own boundaries. Early in September the Serbians took time offensive and began an invasion of Austria-Hungary. This venture failed, and before long Serbia was once more resisting the enemy on her own soil. Belgrade fell into Austrian hands on December 2. It did not long remain in the possession of the conquerors. On the ~4th, it was regained by the Serbians. and the Austrian armies once more expelled. The little Balkan kingdom seemed to be holding her own.
Turkey Enters the War. -~ In the years before the war, Germany had carefully cultivated the friendship of the Turkish government. By means of intrigue, she had practicality made herself master of that country, particularly in military matters. The Turkish army had been trained by Germans. and many of its officers were Germans. Although at time opening of the war Turkey declared herself neutral, she soon showed herself an ally of the Central Powers. There is evidence to show that as early as August ~ she had entered into a secret treaty with Germany. In October Turkey startled the world by bombarding a Russian port on the Black Sea and destroying French and Russian vessels at Odessa. These acts were regarded by Russia as acts of war. A few days later France and Great Britain declared war on Turkey.
Germany welcomed the entrance of Turkey into the war for two reasons. in the 'first place she expected that the Mohammedans under English and French rule, that is, those living in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and India, would join the Turkish Sultan, the religious head of the Mohammedan world, and engage in a "Holy War" against Great Britain and France. In this hope she was doomed to disappointment. In the second place Germany rejoiced at the arrival of a new enemy for Russia who might keep the Russians occupied along their southern borders and so weaken their efforts on other fronts.
German Colonies in the Pacific. -- - During the first four months of the war all of Germany's possessions in the Pacific were lost to liner. on the outbreak of the war, Australia and New Zealand promptly organized expeditionary forces which attacked and captured the German colonies and coaling stations situated south of the Equator. German Samoa, the first to be taken, surrendered to the New Zealand expeditionary force August 29. The other German possessions in the South Pacific surrendered to the Australians.
England's ally, Japan, having entered the war August 23, 1914, sent an expeditionary force which captured and occupied the German islands in the North Pacific. Kiaochow . Germany's only colony in China, was captured l)y a combined Japanese and British force early in November.
The loss of these colonies so early in the war interfered seriously with German plans for a war on Allied commerce by fast cruisers, in the absence of German coaling stations, the only way such vessels could obtain coal (luring a long raiding voyage, would be by the chance capture of coal-laden vessels.
German Colonies in Africa. -- During the last quarter century Germany had succeeded in getting control of considerable territory in Africa. There were few German colonists there. However, Germany hoped that the Boers, who had recently fought a war with the British. and had been defeated, would attempt to regain their independence. In this case there was also the possibility of capturing Cape Colony and Rhodesia from the British. Much to the surprise and disgust of Germany, the Boers promptly showed their loyalty to Great Britain and aided in capturing time German colonies.
The struggle for Germany's African colonies continued for more than three years. Togo, a comparatively small colony, was captured by French and British troops shortly after the outbreak of time war. Under the Boer leaders, Generals Smuts and Botha, German Southwest Africa was conquered by July of 1915.
Kanmerun in West Africa was freed from German forces in 1916. The final chapter in the fight for the German colonies was written in December of 1917, when an army from British South Africa, in cooperation with Belgian forces, completed the conquest of German East Africa.
Germany's Fleet. -- When war was (declared the German fleet, which had cost the people of Germany a billion and a half of dollars, was something less than two thirds the strength of the British fleet. Germany's task was to destroy the British fleet or to weaken it to such aim extent that it could no longer protect the British trade in food and munitions from over seas, nor assure the safe transport of troops 'from Great Britain or her colonies to the various fronts.
The Work of the British Navy. - The British navy had two pieces of work to perform. In the first place its am, was to destroy or bottle up in port the main German fleet so that it should not be able to interfere with the British plans for the war. In the second place squadrons had to be sent out to search for and destroy German squadrons or vessels that were far from homeports at the outbreak of war or that were sent out to raid British and neutral commerce.
Coast Protection. Both Great Britain and Germany protected their coasts by laying fields of mines in the sea so placed that they would float just under water and arranged to explode on contact with the hull of a ship. Through these mine fields carefully hidden channels gave access to the different ports. So
long as ships stayed in port or inside the fields of mines they were safe from attack.
The Blockade of German Ports. - In July, 1914, the British navy had a grand review. When the review was over, the war Clouds were so threatening that the vessels were not dismissed to their stations. At the beginning of time war Great Britain announced a blockade of German ports and assigned to her main fleet the task of carrying out time blockade.
The Battle of Helgoland Bight. Helgoland is a small island rising steeply out of the North Sea; it has aim area of one fifth of a square mile. It was ceded to Germany by England about twenty years before the war. Germany had fortified it and made it a sort of German Gibraltar to protect her chief naval ports. The Bight of Hclgoland is the passage ~bou1 eighteen miles wide between time island and the German coast. Here a portion of the British fleet engaged in patrol or scout duty came in contact with a part of the German fleet (August 28, '914). The arrival of four fast British battleships decided the contest. Germany lost three cruisers and two destroyers, while every British vessel returned to port, though some were badly battered.
German Commerce Raiders. - - A few days 1)before the outbreak of the war the German fleet in China slipped out of port. The cruiser Emden" was detached for work in time Indian Ocean, and the rest of the squadron raided over the Pacific. November 1 a British squadron met the German ships near the coast
of Chile. In a little over an hour two of the British ships had been sunk and time remainder fled to the south. Immediately on news of the defeat the British Admiralty sent a squadron of seven powerful ships to find and destroy the German squadron. The British vessels stopped at the Falkland Islands to coal. The next day the German ships appeared. When they saw the strength of the British squadron they vainly attempted to escape. In the battle that followed, four German vessels were sunk. Of the two that escaped one was, a few months hater, interned in a United States port and about the same time the other was destroyed.
The "Llndien,' after separating from the other warships, cruised in the Indian Ocean for three months, and was the most destructive of the German raiders. She was finally located by aim Australian cruiser. After a fight time German captain drove his vessel on the rocks to escape sinking. A lieutenant and forty men who had landed to destroy a wireless station, seized a schooner and escaped, landed on the coast of Arabia, and finally made their way back to Germany.
Naval Situation at the Close of 1914. - As a result of the activities of the Allied fleets, the German navy was shut up in port hack of its mine fields, German commerce raiders had, with a few exceptions, been driven from the sea or destroyed, German merchant vessels were laid up in neutral or German ports, and the Allies were free to carry on the transport of troops, munitions, and other supplies with practically
no fear of interference from the enemy. "The British ships, whether men-of-war or merchantmen, are upon the sea, the German in their l)orts."
Suggestions for Study. ---- r. Locate Metz, Cologne, Liege,
Namur. Lille. Verdun; the Meuse, the marne, the Oise, the Aisne; Lcnil)erg. \\arstw konigsberg. 2. Look at a large map of Europe and by reference to the scale find out the following distances: Metz to Paris; Cologne to Paris (via Liege); Verdun -to Berlin; Verdun to Strasburg; Liege to Paris; Warsaw to Berlin. W hat is the length of the Belgian coast-line; of the Dutch coast-line; of the Franco-German frontier? ~. Collect pictures and charts illustrative of trench warfare, and of devastated areas of Belgium and France. ~. Explain fully the influence of geography upon the campaigns of 1914.5. Define neutrality; guarantee; treaty. 6. On an outline map of Europe indicate the countries fighting against Germany at the close of 1914. indicate those fighting on the side of Germany at that time. indicate the (late when each of these countries entered the war. Draw a line showing the farthest German advance into France, and the farthest Russian advance into Germany and Austria . 7. What might have been the consequences if the Belgians had not resisted the German invasion?
8. Describe the German effort to reach the French coast in 1914. What would have been the probable consequences of its success? ~. What was the purpose of the English blockade of Germany? how did this blockade affect the rights of neutrals?
Find out wind the United States government did in the matter.
References. -- War Cyclopedia- (C. P. I.); Study of the Great War (C. P. 1.); McKinley, Collected Materials for the study of the war; National School .Science,vol. 1, No.3 (C. P. 1.) ; New -York Times History of 1/ic European war.