Germany Declares War

Militarism + Alliances + Imperialism + Nationalism + Industrialism + Assassination                                                                                                            with each acting and influencing the other...

And the dominoes in 1914 begin to teeter and tip… and fall against one another:


July 26 - Austria-Hungary declares WAR on Serbia. Russia, an ally of Serbia, mobilizes its armies.

Aug 1 - France mobilizes, concerned of Germany's response to Russia.

             Germany declares WAR on Russia and mobilizes. 

Aug 2 - Germany declares WAR on France.

Aug 4 - Germany's invades neutral Belgium causing Britain to declare WAR on Germany in support of their ally.

              CANADA as a dominion of Britain is NOW at WAR.

“Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.”
Sun Tzu
Chinese General (544-496 B.C)

Germany’s worst fear of having a war on two fronts (France in the West and Russia in the East) was now realized. Thankfully they had already developed a plan to neutralize France - the Schlieffen Plan! This strategy described how German forces needed first to hit France hard and fast, then turn their forces back to the east to dispatch the Russians.

The Schlieffen Plan and Race to the Sea

Envision this attack: a hammer with the end of its handle anchored at the German, Swiss, French border with the hammer’s head waiting to the north in the German heartland. Suddenly on August 4th, 1914, the head swings quickly westward into and through Belgium. German forces, upon entering France, begin to curve towards the southwest, arcing down towards Paris, and eventually enveloping the French capital…

Or so that was the plan.

For an idea of the German infantry's movement, please watch the 55-second video below. (Best viewed in full screen)


Germany attacks France - Schlieffen Plan - Race to the Sea

FWW begins: Western Front, 3 Aug. - 17 Oct., 1914

For a more interactive version of the map, please visit Valour Canada's "The Great War Begins" animation (hosted by Animaps)

So now that you’ve visualized the movement and seen a map, in your opinion what could go wrong? What could prevent the German forces from swooping through the centre of France, taking its capital city, and surrounding the remaining French troops battling at the France-German border in the south?

Any ideas or thoughts?

Russian infantry on the move.

What if Russia mobilized earlier than expected and invaded Germany?

  • Yes, the Russians did - Germany had to send men from their western forces to strengthen their eastern forces.

What if the Belgians fought back?

  • The Belgians slowed the Germans by physically fighting and sabotaging their infrastructure (i.e., blowing up bridges and flooding the land).

What if Britain sent soldiers to help the Belgians and French?

  • British troops and units were added to infantry formations that were defending France; they also helped defend the English Channel sea ports for supply shipping.

What if it was too much movement in too short of a timeframe for German troops?

  • It was - after fighting through the Belgians, then the first French and British soldiers, the German fighting units were becoming fatigued, especially after have marched for such a distance with all of their gear. Additionally, supply lines were getting longer and more difficult to maintain and consequently, the troops fighting at the leading edge of the hammer were running low on supplies, food, and artillery support.

How did it play out?

The German thrust made it as far as the Marne River, a major waterway that runs between Paris and Verdun, and after a sequence of September battles, their attack was repulsed and they were pushed back northwards to the far side of the Aisne River. With each side having repeatedly repelled each other's attacks, it became a tie and it was here that the belligerents dug into existing ditches, thereby creating trenches.

However, both sides were unhappy at the stationary battle line and the static nature of the fighting front. Looking for a decisive knock-out, each attempted to outflank their opponent by sending attacks around the end of the other's line. Consequently, the German and the British-French forces extended their trench network northward in the “Race to the Sea.”

It was a true stalemate and a War of Attrition had begun. 

Unit Home

The Great War Begins. Dominion of Canada. Canada's demographics. Sam Hughes.

Trench Warfare

Trenches. Somme. Ypres. Canada Contributes. Air War. Billy Bishop. Trench Game.

The Road to Vimy Ridge

Introduction Homepage

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