What was the most important reason for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan?

This essay examines why the Schlieffen Plan failed early in the First World War.

HideShow resource information
Preview of What was the most important reason for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan?

First 538 words of the document:

What was the most important reason for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan?
There were many reasons as to why the Schlieffen plan failed. However, many
historians feel that the most significant reason was the arrogance shown by the German armies.
The failure of the Germans led to the war being prolonged from six weeks to a war lasting four
long years. Of course, one cannot assume that the failure of this plan was due to one reason for
a well workedout plan to fail there must be many factors aiding the failure.
It can be argued that the most important cause of the downfall of the Schlieffen plan was
the audacity shown by the Germans towards their enemies. An example of this is at the battle at
Liège. The German first and second armies expected the Belgian army to be weak, but they
were surprised by their tough and brave fighting. The Belgian army slowed down the German
armies by ten days. Another instance in which this is shown is at the battle of Mons where they
underestimated the power of the British Expeditionary Force. Although the Germans had called
them `a contemptible little army', they slowed down the Germans' progress by another two
days. The British riflefire at Mons was so fast and accurate that the Germans thought they were
being machinegunned.
Germany's invasion of France went wrong again because the Russians attacked
Germany sooner than expected. The Schlieffen Plan had predicted that the Russian armies
should have taken longer to mobilise than they did. Acting on this, the German commander,
Helmuth von Moltke, sent half of his right wing to assist the German Eighth Army to fight the
Russians. This left Moltke's right wing weak and vulnerable to attack and it also meant that he
had fewer men for the attack on France.
The German armies faced more trouble in France. This was not due to the fighting, but it
can be blamed on exhaustion from marching all day. It is said that at times the first army had to
march fifty kilometres a day. This led to exhaustion. Yet more problems arose when their
supplies of food and ammunition started to run out due to their fast advancement.
The last reason why historians feel that the Schlieffen plan failed is because of Moltke's
changes to the plan. Helmuth von Moltke and the other German generals had made several
alterations to the Schlieffen plan. One such was the decision to go east of Paris towards the
river Marne, instead of attacking in the west according to the original plan. This was a fatal
mistake. It gave the French and British a chance to save themselves.
The failure of the Schlieffen plan can be blamed on numerous factors, but in the end the
failure to recognise the strength of the opposition, hindered progress in the German camp. The
pompous nature shown by the German armies against the Belgian and British armies lost them
the First World War.


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all resources »