Count Alfred von Schlieffen, German Chief of Staff, 1891-1905


1.  Background, 1904 to Aug.02.1914
1904

France.Britain.
==Apr.08 > The Anglo-French Convention is signed: the start of the Entente Cordial

France.
==Apr.--- > A spy slips an early version of the Schlieffen Plan to the French (though the episode may have been a ruse) - ~rising concern in the French Army over the possibility of a war with Germany
==Aug.13 > Some French officers begin to suspect that Germany intends to attack through Belgium in the event of war


1905

Germany.
==early.1905 > The German General Staff begins serious studies on conducting a war against France and Britain

France.
==Feb.20-May > French Chief of Staff Pendezac warns that the French Army may not be able to halt a German invasion

Britain.
==Jul.20 > A British committee is formed to study the feasibility of an expeditionary force against Germany: ~it soon drops plans for landing in northern Germany or for seizing German colonies, and instead plans operations in France or Belgium

Germany.
==Dec.20 > Retiring German Chief of Staff Schlieffen reiterates the necessity of an attack through Belgium in a war with France - the Schlieffen Plan is completed

Britain.
==Dec.--- > The British Army draws up its first detailed plans for landing in France in the event of war
==1905 > British military theorist Henderson notes that modern weaponry has made frontal attacks suicidal

France.
==1905 > ~The French Army begins to recover from the Dreyfus Affair: younger, more capable officers are entering the General Staff; French military professionalism is increasing


1906

Germany.
==Jan.01 > Moltke the Younger replaces Schlieffen as the German Chief of Staff

France.Britain.
==Jan.17 > Serious Anglo-French staff talks begin - ~the idea of a British landing in northern Germany is rejected

Britain.
==Sep.13 to 1910 > Haldane's reforms greatly strengthen the British Army


1907

Britain.
==Jan.01 > Haldane orders planning for a 120,000 man British Expeditionary Force - the origins of the BEF

France.
==Mar.--- > French Intelligence concludes that the Russo-Japanese War was a “dazzling confirmation of the superiority of the offensive... and... the impotence of the defensive.”

Germany.
==summer > Moltke begins altering the Schlieffen Plan: he increases the troop strength facing Russia and in Alsace-Lorraine, weakens the German right flank, and abandons the attack on Holland

Britain.
==1907 > An eyewitness analysis of the Russo-Japanese War by British officer Ian Hamilton concludes that infantry by itself can't break a strong defense, regardless of its numbers or elan (see 1912)

Germany.
==1907 > ~Germany is developing super-heavy siege artillery


1908

Britain.
==Oct.22 > The British Committee for Imperial Defense supports plans for the BEF to be sent to Flanders and France, rather than a Baltic expedition to Pomerania

France.
==1908 > Colonel Grandmaison becomes French Operations chief: ~obsession with the offensive is written into French war plans
==1908 to 1911 > Ferdinand Foch heads the French War College, where he advocates extreme aggressiveness
==1908 > French intelligence obtains German mobilization plans and becomes aware that Germany may use its reserves as combat troops

Germany.
==1908 to 1913 > Erich Ludendorff heads the General Staff’s Mobilization Section

Europe.
==1908 > Most major European armies have incorporated machine gun teams with their infantry units


1909

Germany.
==Jan.02 > The retired German Chief of Staff Schlieffen openly publishes his plan in the journal Deutsche Revue

Belgium.
==Dec.23 > Albert I becomes King of Belgium

France.Britain.
==Dec.--- > Henry Wilson visits the French War College, befriends Foch, and begins periodic tours of the French frontiers

France.
==1909 > Commenting on heavy artillery to the French Chamber, a General Staff officer says: “Thank God we have none.”


1910

France.Britain.
==Jan.--- > When asked by Henry Wilson what the smallest useful British force for France would be, General Foch replies “A single British soldier - and we will see to it that he is killed.”

Germany.
==May.--- > A German General Staff intelligence report warns that in a war with France, a quick and decisive victory is unlikely

Britain.
==Aug.--- > Henry Wilson is named Director of British Military Operations - he intensifies joint planning with France

France.
==1910 > ~Improving morale in the French army
==1910 > Commenting on machine guns, the French Director-General of Infantry says “Make no mistake. This weapon will change absolutely nothing.”


1911

France.
==Feb.--- > Colonel Grandmaison's electrifying lectures at the War College establish ‘offensive to the limit’ as French military doctrine

Britain.
==Mar.--- > Henry Wilson completes the BEF’s mobilization schedule
==Mar.--- > ~Most British commanders are evidently convinced that in the event of war a large German offensive will roll through Belgium

France.
==Jul.19 > Acting French Chief of Staff Michel offers a war plan that assumes the main German assault will come through Belgium, imposes an initially defensive role on the French army, and plans the use of reservists as front-line troops - his plan is voted down and he is sacked within two days

France.Britain.
==Jul.20 > The Dubail-Wilson Agreement: without authorization, the Anglo-French military conference settles the details of military cooperation - Henry Wilson pledges a 150,000-man BEF, to be ready for action on the thirteenth day of mobilization

France.
==end.Jul > Joseph Joffre is appointed French Chief of Staff

Britain.
==Aug.13 > Winston Churchill sends a memo to Asquith on the first stages of a continental war, in which he accurately predicts the events of Aug-Sep 1914 and envisions a long war of attrition - the memo is contemptuously dismissed by Henry Wilson

France.Britain.
==end.Sep > Britain is briefed on French war plans - ~Britain is committed to a strategy it didn't shape and doesn’t grasp
==Nov.28 > Henry Wilson meets Joffre and is finally given access to the French war plans - France gives Britain detailed deployment plans for the BEF

Germany.
==1911 > German Chief of Staff Moltke suffers from heart disease and begins to physically decline


1912

Britain.
==Jan.17-20 > A British General Staff Conference de-emphasizes the importance of firepower - Brigadier Kiggell says “Victory is won actually by the bayonet...”
==Jan.--- > The British Army and the Royal Navy finally complete their plans for transporting the BEF to France

France.
==Feb.21 > Joffre tells the French Cabinet that a general war will either bring a quick French victory or a drawn-out conflict - he does not expect Britain to play a major role

Germany.
==May.10 > The Reichstag agrees to a massive increase in land forces: the start of the serious expansion of the German Army

France.
==Sep.02 > Joffre reports to Poincaré that in the event of a general war, the Entente stands an excellent chance of victory

Belgium.
==Dec.19 > The Kaiser reassures King Albert that Germany does not intend to violate Belgian neutrality

France.
==Dec.--- > The French Chamber debates replacing the highly visible red trousers of the army uniform - one deputy cries “Le pantalon rouge c’est la France!”

Britain.
==1912 > In Compulsory Service, General Sir Ian Hamilton denigrates predictions of the decisiveness of firepower as “trash”   (see 1907)

France.
==1912 > France revives the use of cavalry lances


1913

Germany.
==Jan.04 > Former German Chief of Staff Schlieffen dies at age 79, saying “It must come to a fight.  Only make the right wing strong.”
==Jan.--- > Ludendorff is removed from the General Staff after offending the War Minister
==Jun.30 > The German Reichstag passes a gigantic Army Bill

France.
==Aug.07 > A French Army Bill is ratified that restores three year terms of service in response to the German buildup - ~rapid expansion causes disruption in the French Army until early 1914

Belgium.
==Aug.30 > Overdue Belgian army reforms are enacted - King Albert secures a Belgian universal conscription law

France.
==Aug.--- > General Foch assumes command of the French XX Corps on the German frontier near Nancy
==Oct.28 > The new French Field Regulations begin “The French army, returning to its traditions, henceforth admits no law but the offensive.”
==1913 > Grouard's La Guerre eventuelle warns of the likelihood of a German attack on France through Belgium, predicting “...if we take the offensive at the outset we shall be beaten.”

Britain.
==1913 > British Brigadier Haking declares that the offensive “will win as sure as there is a sun in the heavens,” regardless of the strength of the defense

Germany.
==1913 > The German Army drops all plans for fighting a defensive war with limited aims - the Schlieffen Plan becomes the sole German military plan
==1913 > The influential German General Bernhardi advocates mass infantry attacks to bring victory by sheer force or “shock”


January to late June 1914

Belgium.
==Jan.--- > General Leman assumes command of the Belgian fortresses at Liège

France.
==Feb.--- > General Gallieni retires, and is replaced by Lanrezac as commander of the 5th Army on the French left flank
==Apr.--- > French intelligence obtains the the German mobilization plans - the evidence that German reservists will be used as combat troops is ignored
==May.--- > The French Army officially adopts War Plan XVII - Joffre concentrates his forces against Alsace-Lorraine, leaving his left flank open
==May.--- > French intelligence is still predicting that the main German thrust will be in the Nancy-Verdun area and that Germany won’t use its reservists as combat troops
==Jun.13 > A French General Staff study greatly underestimates German military strength
 



The July Crisis: June 28-August 2, 1914

June 28-July 1914

Europe.
==Jun.28. > The assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo [1034.AM] - THE JULY CRISIS BEGINS

France.
==Jul.13-14 > Angry debates in the French Senate over military preparedness - Senator Humbert reveals enormous French deficiencies relative to Germany

Europe.
==Jul.19 > The first public hint of the impending European crisis - the powers begin to grow alarmed

Germany.
==Jul.21 > French Ambassador Jules Cambon reports early signs of German war preparations

Europe.
==Jul.23 > Austria delivers its ultimatum to Serbia [600.PM] - THE JULY CRISIS COMES OUT INTO THE OPEN

Germany.
==Jul.23 > German officers’ leave is stopped

France.
==Jul.25 > From Berlin, Ambassador Jules Cambon suggests that France quietly begin making military preparations - French generals are recalled
==Jul.26 > After learning of German military preparations, the French government recalls troops on leave [430.PM]
==Jul.27 > Ambassador Jules Cambon predicts that if Germany is threatened by a Russian mobilization it will immediately launch a crushing offensive against France
==Jul.27 > France orders the recall of most of its forces in Morocco and begins implementing railroad security

Europe.
==Jul.28> Austria declares war on Serbia [1100.AM] - WORLD WAR I BEGINS

Germany.
==Jul.28 > German War Minister Falkenhayn orders that all troops on maneuvers return to their garrisons

Britain.
==Jul.29 > British government departments are instructed to implement war precautions [200.PM] - ~authorities throughout the British Empire are ordered to a state of readiness - ~The Committee for Imperial Defense War Book is opened

Belgium.
==Jul.29 > Belgium strengthens the fortifications at Liege

The BEF.
==Jul.30 > General Sir John French is designated the commander of the BEF

France.
==Jul.30 > After receiving exaggerated reports of German preparations, Joffre asks permission to bring French frontier forces to wartime strength [700.AM] - France orders a cautious troop buildup near the German frontier, keeping its troops ten kilometers from the border [500.PM]

Belgium.
==Jul.31 > Belgium declares mobilization, to begin Aug.01

Germany.
==Jul.31 > Germany declares a State of Imminent War [100.PM], allowing for martial law and the sealing of the frontiers

France.
==Jul.31 > Fearing imminent war with Germany, General Joffre forcefully warns against delaying French mobilization [200.PM] - The French cabinet orders accelerated military preparations [540.PM]

The Northwestern Front.
==Jul.31 > Lanrezac, the commander of the French 5th Army, expresses concern over the possibility of a German advance through Belgium; Joffre ignores the memo


AUGUST 1

France.
==Fearing a secret German mobilization, Joffre demands that by 400.PM France order a general mobilization [800.AM]

Britain.
==The British cabinet decides to not immediately send the British Expeditionary Force to France [late morning]
== ~All strategic points in Britain are guarded by troops

Belgium.
==Aug.01 > Ambassador Below assures the Belgian government that “Belgium has nothing to fear from Germany.” [noon]

France.
==France orders mobilization [355.PM], to begin at noon on Aug.02

Germany.
==Germany orders a general mobilization [just after 500.PM]: the first day is to be Aug.02; as the order is issued in Berlin, the crowds break into the national hymn while officers drive around waving swords and handkerchiefs
==After receiving false reports that Britain will guarantee French neutrality, the euphoric Kaiser attempts to halt the mobilization against France and to redirect it toward Russia [dusk]; Chief of Staff Moltke is stunned, and possibly suffers a small stroke

Europe.
==Aug.01 > Germany declares war on Russia [710.PM]: THE START OF WAR BETWEEN THE POWERS

Luxembourg.
==The first military moves in the west: German troops enter Luxembourg and seize Trois Vierges (Three Virgins) [700.PM], but are quickly withdrawn by the Kaiser, who still hopes to cut a last-minute deal with Britain - the Kaiser learns that reports of a British offer were untrue [1100.PM] and orders the advance on Luxembourg and Belgium to resume - German forces again enter Luxembourg and occupy the rail and telegraph stations at Trois Vierges [midnight], this time permanently

French Headquarters.
==Joffre curtly dismisses the concerns expressed by 3rd Army commander Ruffey that German forces will advance through Belgium


AUGUST 2

Belgium.
== ~Despite warnings from its Ambassador in Berlin, Belgium informs Britain that it does not intend to appeal to the powers to affirm its neutrality, and that it assumes that it will need no foreign aid to repel invaders [morning]

France.
==Though the two countries are still at peace, there are eleven recorded German violations of the French border on this day: near Belfort, French Corporal André Peugeot becomes the first recorded fatality on the Western Front
==The French government gives Joffre full freedom of action [200.PM]; he moves his forces up to the German border

Belgium.
==Germany delivers a twelve-hour ultimatum to Belgium, demanding that German forces be allowed to pass through the country [720.PM] - a Council of State is held in Brussels [900.PM-400.AM]: Belgium resolves to resist Germany - acrimonious meetings are held through the night on military strategy - ~belated orders are issued to put the Liège forts in a state of defense

Luxembourg.
==German forces complete the occupation of Luxembourg [by night] - its government protests but does not resist

The Northwestern and Central Fronts.
==Concerned by the Belgian crisis, Joffre begins altering French Plan 17, moving Lanrezac’s 5th Army further left, and putting de Langley’s 4th Army in line to Lanrezac’s right [~night]

Alsace.
==French VII Corps is ordered to invade Alsace and to take Mulhouse and Huningen

France.
==France declares a state of siege (ratified Aug.05), with martial law and military control of the railways

Germany.
==Moltke is named the Commander-in-Chief of the German Field Armies
==German Army commanders are appointed
==Ludendorff is named liaison between the Liège assault force and 2nd Army command
==The Krupp works are urgently ordered to make their super-heavy 420 mm guns ready for use against the Liège forts


 

1st Marne Campaign: Introduction   //   (2) Opening Moves, Aug.03-19

(3) Battles of the Frontiers, Aug.20-24   //   (4) The Long Retreat, Aug.25-Sep.04

(5) 1st Marne & Aftermath, Sep.05-15   //   Biographies and Glossary

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