A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 146

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Proofread. The contents of this page have been proofread at least once for errors and inconsistencies.
GERMAN INVASION OF BELGIUM


German eyes to be in a worse plight. Torn by internal dissensions over the problem of Irish Home Rule, saddled with the administration of a presumed revolutionary India and South Africa, she was under the control of a Liberal and, therefore, pacifist government. Her inclination to interfere with the schemes of the Central Powers would seem limited; her ability to interfere effectively even more so. Accordingly, Germany was convinced that Britain would do no more than signify her disapproval of Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality. Even though she should choose to declare war, Germany would have swept Belgium aside and would be knocking peremptorily upon the gates of Paris before Britain could offer any effectual resistance.

The advantages of the Belgian route were so obvious from a military point of view that they required no stressing. The Belgian fortresses of Liége and Namur, notwithstanding all their strength, were toy forts compared with the enormous structures, which France had built from Longwy down through Verdun, Toul and Nancy to Belfort. In the N.E. was the barrier of the Ardennes; in the S. the barrier of the Vosges. But through Belgium, the road, except for Liége, was clear. Moreover, the admirable system of railways constructed in the S. and S.E. of Belgium offered immense advantages to an advance by that route. Finally, France, relying upon the respect that would be shown for Belgian neutrality, had done little to defend her northern frontier, and the defences of Lille, Condé and Maubeuge were as inferior to those of Nancy and Verdun as were those of Liége and Namur.

Strategically, Germany had every right to expect that an attack through Belgium would prove irresistible. Politically, she had good reason to believe that she had nothing to fear from Britain. Her military commanders displayed an appreciation of geography which from a military point of view has seldom been excelled; and her statesmen had chosen a moment for setting her almost perfect military machine in operation which by all the laws of probability would have seemed unequalled. In all, Germany was perfectly justified in believing that the Kaiser's assertion that he would be dictating terms of peace in Paris before Christmas was no idle boast.

In spite, however, of her forethought, Germany made three grave miscalculations. In the first place she failed to foresee the unifying effect which an invasion of Belgium would have upon

← 145   ·   146   ·   147 →
(page index)