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  • My name is Indy Neidell. Welcome to the Great War.

  • We left off last time with the Austro-Hungarian Empire declaring war on the kingdom of Serbia,

  • and you can find links to that episode below and to our special Prelude to War episodes.

  • I'm going to begin today with a couple of telegrams.

  • Now, in Russia there were real fears that Austria's plans might extend to more than

  • just Serbian occupation or punishment- Russia thought Serbia might actually lose her independence.

  • See, Austria had mobilized three quarters of her army, way more than enough to deal

  • with Serbia, so on July 29th, as Austria began bombarding Belgrade, Russia partially mobilized

  • her army just in case.

  • The Tsar, though, did not a war with Germany, who had pledged to support Austria, and he

  • telegraphed his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm, in English, “To try to avoid such a calamity

  • as a European war, I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop

  • your allies from going too far.” He signed itNicky”. At the same time, the Kaiser

  • was telegraphing back “I am exerting the utmost influence to induce the Austrians

  • to deal straightly to arrive at a satisfactory understanding with you.” This was signed

  • Willy”.

  • However, that same day the German fleet began to mobilize and in response the British

  • fleet was sent to its war stations in the North Sea in case of a possible attack. At

  • that point, the allied pair France and Russia were putting pressure on Britain to declare

  • that in case of a German attack on Russia's ally France, Britain would join the war, but

  • Britain, especially the foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, wouldn't commit.

  • Important stuff now.

  • Germany told Britain in a secret message that if Britain remained neutral, Germany would

  • take no territory from France except her colonies. This provoked the opposite effect though,

  • showing Grey once and for all that Germany was committed to going to war, no matter what.

  • Against Russia.

  • In Russia on the 29th there was no declaration of war, but a draft of nearly six million

  • men began and the army was already moving toward the Austrian border, and it was at

  • 5 PM on July 30th that the Russian general mobilization began. The Tsar finally signed

  • this order because of partial German mobilization and his worries about being unready on the

  • Polish front.

  • It all actually got a little confusing here; German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg telegraphed

  • Vienna NOT to mobilize against Russia, but the same day, German chief of staff Moltke

  • telegraphed his opposite Austrian number Conrad to mobilize at once, so who was really in

  • charge? And then, Germany sent Russia an ultimatum to stop all war measures of any kind against

  • Austria and Germany within 24 hours. This was rejected.

  • You could see that this was becoming a real mess. But at the end of July all of the various

  • armies were pressuring their political leaders. Many of the leaders were against the war,

  • but the armies were afraid of being unready and wanted to move as quickly as possible.

  • On July 29th, a German ultimatum to Belgium was prepared.

  • What? Belgium? Why little neutral Belgium? you ask. Here's why:

  • If Germany was going to war with Russia she could not help but be worried about France

  • invading her from behind, because again- France and Russia were committed allies. So here

  • was the idea- the moment you've all been waiting for... the Schlieffen Plan!

  • Alfred von Schlieffen had been the Germany army Chief of Staff from 1891 to 1905 and

  • here was his big idea in case of war with both Russia and France: France would have

  • to be knocked out immediately so all troops could focus on the more daunting task of attacking

  • Russia, so Germany would make a swift attack through Belgium and Holland into Northern

  • France, completely bypassing the heavily defended Franco-German border and sweeping down into

  • Paris from the north. Moltke streamlined the plan a bit by skipping Holland, but the idea

  • was to take Paris within six weeks and thus avoid a two front war. We'll go into this

  • in more depth later.

  • But Belgium was neutral and Britain had a treaty with her, and on July 31st, Britain

  • asked France and Germany if they would respect Belgian neutrality. France said yes, but Germany

  • did not respond, so Britain eventually sent an ultimatum of her own; if Belgium were attacked,

  • Britain would go to war.

  • In all of these countries people were enlisting like crazy.

  • and nationalistic fever was going off the rails. In France, for example, Jean Jaurés,

  • leader of the socialist party who was appealing to all the European working classes to stop

  • the war, was assassinated on the 31st. Ironically, this actually caused more shock around Europe

  • than Franz Ferdinand's assassination did, but it showed that in France there was a great

  • deal of enthusiasm for the war. Many people wanted revenge for the loss against Prussia

  • over 40 years earlier.

  • Back to Russia and Germany!

  • The day after Russia mobilized, Germany also did. This was presented in the Reichstag as

  • purely defensive. We have to mobilize just in case, because they did first. This was

  • pretty much the only way that the Germany military high command could get the social

  • democrats to agree with mobilization.

  • And on the evening of August 1st, the German ambassador gave Russia the German

  • declaration of war, which resulted from Russia rejecting the German ultimatum to stand down.

  • Actually, as it turned out, the German ambassador actually gave the Russians two versions

  • of the declaration of war, one that claimed Russia refused to respond to Germany and one

  • that said the Russian response was unacceptable.

  • Yep. That's the kind of thing you want to avoid in the diplomatic service.

  • The Kaiser at first ordered an attack on only Russia, but Moltke convinced him that this

  • wasn't really possible since most of the army was already committed in the west, and

  • that evening, German troops entered Luxembourg to secure the telegraph and the railways

  • Here we go: on August 2nd, German troops crossed into France for the first time in over 40

  • years, and there were several small border skirmishes. At seven that evening, Germany

  • gave Belgium an ultimatum- give German troops free passage through Belgium. Belgium refused.

  • On August 3rd, Germany declared was on France, and that same day occupied three towns in

  • Russian Poland. On August 4th, German troops entered Belgium and Britain declared war on

  • Germany. Many of those in England who had been anti-war, were suddenly very much for

  • the war. Grey, for example, now believed that if Germany wasn't stopped then all European

  • national independence was just a fiction.

  • In the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Empire began mining the Dardanelles on the 3rd, although

  • the Turks were not yet going to war. We'll see more of them in a few weeks, but what

  • of Serbia? I mean, this whole thing snowballed because of issues between Serbia and Austria-Hungary,

  • right? Well, we're going to get to that in more depth next week, I promise.

  • In much of Europe, there was huge optimism about the war. Everyone really thought that

  • they were going to win. Even though by this time there were several million soldiers marching

  • around Europe this was still the war that would be over by Christmas. The Russian high

  • command, for example, asked for new typewriters, but were told that the war would not be long

  • enough to justify the expense. And because of all of this, everyone's military

  • plans called for huge immediate attacks, since there seemed no point saving resources for

  • later when you could just win right now.

  • But here's the thing, the wars people looked back on were short wars like the Franco-Prussian

  • war, but they really should have looked at the American Civil War to get an idea of how

  • long and bloody modern warfare was going to be.

  • Alright, on August 5th, the German Empire reached her first serious military obstacle-

  • Liege. That day the Germans failed to take any of the 12 forts of the city. Ludendorf

  • managed to enter Liege on the 7th, but taking the forts was necessary for the German advance.

  • Germany brought in her big guns and this was accomplished in only a few days, and THIS

  • is really important.

  • See, France and Belgium had strategically placed fortresses all over them. They were

  • very expensive and heavily defended. But one of the first things the war showed was the

  • technological advance in artillery. Heavy howitzers could bombard fortresses from ten

  • miles away without real fear of retaliation, and the fortresses were just sitting ducks,

  • so all of the fortresses attacked in 1914 fell very quickly, and all the money and effort

  • to build them up was for nothing.

  • So, to bring us up to date: on August 6th, Austria-Hungary officially declared war on

  • Russia and Serbia declared war on Germany.

  • If you want to know what happened in the last episode click right here.

  • Let me know how you liked it and if you have any questions, comments or thoughts put them in the comments below.

  • Now if you follow us on the other Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter you can learn more about the Great War.

  • We have behind the scenes footage and all kinds of other background informations for you.

My name is Indy Neidell. Welcome to the Great War.

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Germany in Two-Front War and the Schlieffen-Plan I THE GREAT WAR - Week 2

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    黃耀霆   posted on 2019/10/30
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