Nov 14, 2010

Haut-Rhin, France 1917 :world war one

Haut-Rhin, France 1917 :world war one

The Serbians occupied defensive positions against the Austrians. The first attack came on August 16, between parts of the 21st Austro–Hungarian division and parts of the Serbian Combined division. In harsh night-time fighting, the battle ebbed and flowed, until Stepa Stepanovic rallied the Serbian line. Three days later the Austrians retreated across the Danube, having suffered 21,000 casualties as against 16,000 Serbian. This marked the first major Allied victory of the war. The Austrians had not achieved their main goal of eliminating Serbia, and it became increasingly likely that Germany would have to maintain forces on two fronts.

The Schlieffen plan to deal with the Franco-Russian alliance involved delivering a knock-out blow to the French and then turning to deal with the more slowly mobilized Russian army. Rather than invading eastern France directly, German planners deemed it prudent to attack France from the north. To do so, the German army had to march through Belgium. Germany demanded free passage from the Belgian government, promising to treat Belgium as Germany's firm ally if the Belgians agreed. When Belgium refused, Germany invaded and began marching through Belgium anyway, after first invading and securing Luxembourg. It soon encountered resistance before the forts of the Belgian city of Liège, although the army as a whole continued to make rapid progress into France. Britain sent an army to France (the British Expeditionary Force, or BEF), which advanced into Belgium. The first British soldier killed in the war was John Parr, on 21 August 1914, near Mons.

Initially the Germans had great successes in the Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August 1914). However, the delays brought about by the resistance of the Belgian, French and British forces; the unexpectedly rapid mobilization of the Russians; and overly-ambitious objectives upset the German plans. Russia attacked in East Prussia, diverting German forces intended for the Western Front. Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the Second Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September).

This diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from railheads, not allowed for by the German General Staff, allowed French and British forces to finally halt the German advance on Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914) and the Entente forced the Central Powers into fighting a war on two fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself in the months of August and September. Yet staff incompetence and leadership timidity, as Ludendorff had needlessly transferred troops from the right to protect Sedan, cost Germany the chance for an early knockout.

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