How the Schlieffen Plan was Meant to Work
When war was declared in August 1914, Germany was allied in "The
Triple Alliance" with the Austro - Hungarian Empire and Italy.
Britain, Russia and France were allied as "The Triple Entente."
The alliance between Britain, France and Russia rendered Germany's
geographical position a weakness, with France and Britain on it's
Western Frontier, and Russia in the East. This meant that Germany
would have to split its army into two, in order to fight the war on
both fronts - which was an immense quandary. The Schlieffen plan was
devised by the German Chief of Staff, Count Alfred Von Schlieffen in
1905 as a solution to this dilemma.
Count Von Schlieffen appreciated that due to its vast area, Russia
would take more than six weeks after the declaration of war to
immobilise its troops. On the basis of this, Von Schlieffen deduced
that if the German army defeated France's army within six weeks, they
could move onto the eastern front. The could then defeat the Russian
army, with the entire German army, and prevent splitting the army in
half to deal with a war on both fronts.
To defeat France so quickly, they would need the element of surprise.
Most of the French army was stationed on the border with Germany in
the historically disputed region of Alsace - Lorraine. Von Schlieffen
decided to surprise the enemy by invading France through the newly
formed neutral country of Belgium.
Upon the formation of Belgium, several countries agreed to its
neutrality, meaning that if it were ever invaded, the countries that
backed Belgium would help fight the invaders. However, the Germans did
not believe that Britain would go to war over their 1839 treaty with
Belgium, which was described as a 'scrap of paper'. Even if Britain
did defend Belgium, the Kaiser believed that there was no need to fear
the British Expeditionary Force, which he called a 'contemptible
The Schlieffen plan was launched immediately after the German
declaration of war on France. Five German armies invaded Belgium and
northern France. Belgium was expected not to fight as a result of its
neutrality and small size. This gave the impression that the German
army could advance swiftly into France.
Unexpectedly so, the Belgian army fought courageously and the German
army was hindered. Instead of reaching Paris within six weeks as
planned, the German army was still fighting the British Expeditionary
Force and the Belgian army weeks after it invaded.
The French were expected to concentrate their troops on the eastern
frontier along the Alsace-Lorraine border and therefore have
insufficient troops defending Paris. The French responded rapidly to
the German threat.
An additional postulation made in the Schlieffen Plan was that the
Russian army would take a long...