The First World War

  • Kim Coleman

Abstract

The most persistent assumption underlying the decisions taken by the great powers in July and August 1914 was the illusion that the ensuing war would be short. The thinking behind this was relatively simple: modern methods of transportation and communications created unprecedented opportunities for speed and mobility in attack. In fact, all the war plans of the great powers before 1914 hinged on railway timetables and the rapid deployment of men in the field. Indeed Kaiser Wilhelm II assured his troops they would be ‘home before the leaves fall’ and certainly troops of all nations believed ‘it will all be over by Christmas’. Young men went off adventurously, glad to change their lives, to travel. They were answering the call of duty and were sure they would soon be back home crowned with victory; in London, Berlin and Paris they left singing and exuberant. But, the dream became a nightmare. The belief in speed was crucial. The most famous stratagem, the German Schlieffen Plan called for a lightning attack on France — but this was not exceptional. France had Plan 17 which proposed a quick strike through Alsace; Russia’s Plan B called for Russia to seize the offensive and attack through Poland and Britain’s planning for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) assumed it must land in France within days of war being declared for it to be effective.

Keywords

Dust Arsenic Rubber Explosive Flare 

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Notes

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© Kim Coleman 2005

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  • Kim Coleman

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