The Development of a Stalemate on the Western Front
When the war began in 1914, it was greeted largely with enthusiasm and
excitement. General public opinion was that it would be a quick war;
it was common to hear people saying it would be 'over by Christmas'.
However, when Christmas 1914 arrived, the war was far from over. In
fact, both sides had 'dug in' for winter, and there were no signs of
the quick and easy victory that each party had expected.
There are a number of reasons why stalemate developed on the Western
Front in October 1914, and none of these reasons could stand alone as
the main cause of the stalemate. There were many contributing factors,
overall playing a part in the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, which
had intended a quick victory for Germany, and definitely no stalemate.
Firstly, Germany had planned to invade France through neutral Belgium,
with the idea that Belgium would offer no resistance. However, Belgium
wasn't prepared to surrender quietly; the Belgian forces fought
heroically and, while Brussels still fell on the 20th of August, the
resistance offered by Belgium held up the Germans considerably. One of
the things the Belgians did was to flood large areas of their land,
which was very effective in delaying the German advance.
This contributed towards the stalemate in 1914 because the Germans
were working to a tight schedule; they needed to have defeated France
before Russia had mobilised, and they estimated that they had six
weeks in which to do this. Every part of the Schlieffen Plan needed to
run flawlessly in order for them to defeat the French in time to
return and fight Russia; even the slightest delay would have proved
very dangerous to the success of the plan, and Belgium resisting the
German invasion did delay them considerably.
Germany had also expected that the British would remain uninvolved in
the event of the invasion through Belgium; however, Britain, unlike
Germany, stood by the 1839 declaration of Belgium's neutrality, and
declared war on Germany on the 4th of August 1914. Within only a week,
Britain had shipped 120000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force
Another major factor leading to stalemate was that Russia mobilised
its forces much more quickly than Germany had expected. Germany had
planned to have defeated France and returned to fight Russia within 6
weeks. Russia, however, had mobilised well before then, and invaded
Germany on the 17th of August. Germany was forced to transfer 100000
men back to face Russia. This meant that the troops attacking France
were not only behind schedule, but greatly reduced.
Already having been delayed by Belgian resistance, and having suffered
a loss of troops due to Russia's mobilisation, Germany now faced the
BEF at Mons, which, although greatly outnumbered, also...