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World War 1 had begun in August with both sides certain that their sudden attacks with cavalry and infantry would create a war of rapid movement, which would bring them a swift victory. The ending of this possibility and build up towards a stationary war of fixed entrenchment was not only due to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and Plan XVII, but the problems in communications, problems faced through tactics and strategies and the role of the commanders throughout the planning and progression of the war. The possibility of further outflanking movements was gone.
The initially hastily constructed trenches of the allied forcers took on a more permanent look as two massive armies consisting of over 4 million men faced each other over 800 kilometres of continuous trench lines from the coast of Belgium to the Swiss border. For the next four years, the rival commanders struggled and blundered in an attempt to find a way to break the stalemate, which had emerged by the end of 1914. In order to break the stalemate there were two major offensives remembered from 1916, which both failed but were attempts none the less.
Both sides had become aware that it was easier to hold a defensive position than it was to launch an offensive. However, this did not stop them, launching repeated disastrous offensives, relying on weight of men, artillery and supplies to crumble the opposition through attrition and each side endeavored to weaken the other. The generals decided only a ‘big push’ would be able to break through the enemy lines and restart the war of rapid movement. This was not achieved until the attrition of 1915-18 finally weakened the German lines in mid-1918.
The Schlieffen Plan, originally devised by Alfred von Schlieffen, the then German Army Chief of Staff, in 1905, was the German Plan which would they would implement to avoid a war on two fronts. Schlieffen argued that France had to be defeated as soon as possible in the event of a great European War. If that were to happen, Schlieffen realised that Russia and France would be unwilling to continue fighting. In addition, Schlieffen estimated that it would take Russia six weeks to mobilise her forces in preparation for war against them. Thus, he reasoned that Germany would have six weeks in which to defeat France and surrender.
On August 2nd 1914 the Schlieffen Plan was put into effect and the German Army began its advance upon France through Belgium. The delicate plan was upset with the early arrival of the British Expeditionary Force under Sir John French, significant resistance by the Belgian Army, resistance of the Belgians and the early arrival of Russian Forces. The German implementations and strategies relied too heavily on the Schlieffen Plan itself. The plan greatly depended on speed and movement, the strict deadline of 42 days was impractical, this unreasonable goal was pushed further away from the Germans.
General von Moltke did not follow through the original Schlieffen Plan; instead, he had shifted the numbers of the planned armies and therefore altered the balance for the plan to work. All these events led up to the Battle of the Marne, the first major battle on the Western Front. The French Allied victory at this battle marked the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, and the death of any German hope for a quick decisive victory. The German forces were not only to blame for the reason of stationary war during 1914, the problems with the French Plan XVII also contributed to the fact.