A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 147

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THE FIRST SHOTS


the bickering parties in Britain, or to gauge the depth of resentment which such an action would provoke. In the second place she seriously underestimated the time which Russia would take to mobilize effectively; and finally she underestimated both the spirit and the power of resistance which Belgium would display.

The first of the miscalculations has already been dealt with, and the appearance upon French soil of the British army was as remarkable in its suddenness as it was unexpected by Germany. The second mistake almost proved Germany's undoing. Russia was over the East Prussian frontier as quickly as Germany was into Belgium and France. Within a week a flight to Berlin had begun, and short-lived as was the Russian success, it had a momentous bearing upon the course of events in the West.

The third German mistake, although less serious, was yet of vital importance to the Allies. The defence of Liége, brief as it was, gave just that breathing space to France and Britain which was imperative if Paris was to be saved. During those extra three weeks in which Belgium was heroically resisting the German onslaught, French forces were being brought back from the east whither they had been sent and thrown in front of Paris, and the small British army was calmly getting into position Mons. The respite which the defence of Liége and the heroism of the Belgian army gave to England and France saved Paris and foiled the knock-out blow which Germany had so skilfully prepared; but it cost Belgium her liberty and laid her under the heel of a merciless tyranny for four long years.

Germany began the fighting on the Western Front before war was actually declared. On August 1 and 2, her cavalry crossed the French frontier at points between Longwy and Belfort. This was simply a strategical move designed to convince the French that as in 1870 the real German attack would proceed by way of France. In this she was remarkably successful. France, in a fever of mobilization, despatched corps after corps of her best troops E. and S.E. to defend her threatened E. frontier. Along the lines of the N. and N.E, nothing was done. Her leaders were under two delusions: the first that Germany was quite unlikely to invade Belgium and the second that even if Germany did break her pledged word, the real attack would still be delivered through the Verdun-Toul line. Any demonstration in the N. would be designed, France thought, to persuade her to weaken

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