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Germany’s Western Front

Translations from the German Official History of the Great War, 1914, Part 1

Mark OsborneHumphries, JohnMaker

Publication Year: 2013

This multi-volume series in six parts is the first English-language translation of Der Weltkrieg, the German official history of the First World War. Originally produced between 1925 and 1944 using classified archival records that were destroyed in the aftermath of the Second World War, Der Weltkrieg is the inside story of Germany’s experience on the Western front. Recorded in the words of its official historians, this account is vital to the study of the war and official memory in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Although exciting new sources have been uncovered in former Soviet archives, this work remains the basis of future scholarship. It is essential reading for any scholar, graduate student, or enthusiast of the Great War.

This volume, the second to be published, covers the outbreak of war in July–August 1914, the German invasion of Belgium, the Battles of the Frontiers, and the pursuit to the Marne in early September 1914. The first month of war was a critical period for the German army and, as the official history makes clear, the German war plan was a gamble that seemed to present the only solution to the riddle of the two-front war. But as the Moltke-Schlieffen Plan was gradually jettisoned through a combination of intentional command decisions and confused communications, Germany’s hopes for a quick and victorious campaign evaporated.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

List of Maps, Sketches, and Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. xv-xxiv

War is a reactive business, a competition whose outcome is dependent not on some sort of absolute standard of excellence on the part of one side, but on the relative superiority of one side over another. It is this relationship—the dynamic between two opponents as each struggles to impose its will on the other— that should be at the heart of operational military history. But it rarely is. Military ...

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pp. xxv-xxviii

This first volume of germany’s western front—the second to be published in the series but the first in numerical order—is the work of many hands. The series began in 2006 with a search for existing translations from scattered German-language sources in Ottawa, Pennsylvania, Washington, Kansas, and London. In Ottawa, Tim Cook, Owen Cooke, Sarah Cozzi, Steve Harris, Andrew Iarocci, Barbara Wilson, the staff of the Directorate of History and Heritage, the...

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pp. 1-14

On 14 April 1945, a british bomber dropped several five-ton bombs over the Bauhausberg in Potsdam. They pierced the roof of the German national archive’s warehouse and fell through seven floors of documents, exploding in the basement. The combination of incendiary devices and high explosives melted the steel girders holding up the warehouse’s immense collection of books and papers....

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A Note on the Translation and Sources

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pp. 15-18

This volume of Germany’s western front has two parts. each consists of translated material from Volumes I and III of Der Weltkrieg, 1914 bis 1918: Die militärischen Operationen zu Lande.1 In this book, “Part I: The Battle of the Frontiers in the West,” is taken from Volume I, Die Grenzschlachten im Westen (originally published in 719 pages).2 We include translations of pages 3–78, 101–54, 179–88, ...

PART I The Battle of the Frontiers in the West

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I Introduction

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pp. 21-60

Among the nations of Europe, Germany has always been most exposed to the danger of war because of its location at the centre of the continent. This has been proved over centuries of European history. The old German Empire had to repeatedly defend itself against attacks simultaneously from the East and the West and it is no coincidence that during the last Turkish assault on Vienna, Strasbourg was...

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II The Campaign Plan for the Western Front

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pp. 61-88

At the end of the 1870s, Generalfeldmarschall Count Helmuth von Moltke’s deployment and operational plans assumed that during the initial period of a war with France, Germany would mount a strategic defence.1 This was based on the assumption that the French would rally several armies on the upper Moselle behind the Meuse between Epinal and Verdun and that they would only push...

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III The Deployment

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pp. 89-122

At the start of the war, the German General Staff believed that the French—possibly even before war was declared—would attempt to disturb German mobilization and deployment by systematically blasting railway bridges and tunnels, by initiating air attacks against railway buildings and trains (especially those travelling across the Rhine bridges), and by conducting surprise dashes using standing or...

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IV The Beginning of Major Operations

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pp. 123-146

Supreme command in war belonged to the emperor, to whom was subordinated, according to the Constitution of the German Empire, all the armed forces on land and at sea.1 According to the peacetime regulations, the adviser responsible for the war on land was the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army...

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V The Battle of the Frontiers

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pp. 147-242

The advance of the german wheeling wing had been executed as directed in the deployment instructions. A special need for intervention by the OHL had not arisen. Thus far, operations had also been executed on schedule. An examination of operational planning maps prepared in peacetime based on the deployment instructions showed that the actual course of operations had followed ...

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VI The Pursuit

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pp. 243-282

Anticipating victory, on 25 August, Second Army’s Commander-in-Chief once again travelled to the southern front from Somzée. There he anxiously awaited news of the effects of the previous day’s fighting; he hoped that on 25 August the campaign might be decided on the German Army’s right wing. The enemy’s whereabouts remained unclear. Third Army, which had just designated the ...

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VII Review

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pp. 283-298

“We do not want to conquer anything, only defend what we possess. We will probably never be the attackers, always the attacked. However, only the offensive can bring us the necessary quick success with certainty.” With these words from its 1902 memorandum, the German General Staff distinctly stated Germany’s military aims. The most important proviso for the necessary “quick success” was ...

PART II From the Sambre to the Marne

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VIII The OHL at the Beginning of the New Phase of Operations

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pp. 301-312

The first news of the victory in east prussia arrived at the ohl in Coblenz on 27 August 1914. In his dispatch, General Paul von Hindenburg reported that he was looking forward to dealing with the Russian Army at Tannenberg by the evening of the next day. Two corps had just been deployed from the Western Front to reinforce his army. Consequently, the situation in East Prussia would not...

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IX Operations on the Meuse and Aisne

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pp. 313-340

During the battle at namur, which had lasted several days, third Army had forced the Meuse crossings on both sides of Dinant and pursued the retreating enemy in a southwesterly direction. By the evening of 27 August it had reached the Sormonne south of Rocroi....

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X The Operations of First and Second Armies to the Oise

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pp. 341-392

On the German Army’s right flank, First Army under General von Kluck had reached the line Péronne–Bohain on the afternoon of 27 August after pursuing the defeated British from the battles at Mons and Le Cateau....

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XI The OHL, 29–30 August

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pp. 393-406

On the evening of 28 august, the ohl felt itself to be insufficiently informed about the progress of the day’s pursuit on the German Army’s right wing. A radio message sent by 4th Cavalry Division to First Army Headquarters at 16:30 was overheard, and from it the OHL gathered that “II Corps has just gone into battle against the Somme Position.” At that time it was unclear whether this...

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XII The Pursuit by the German Right Wing to the Marne, 31 August–2 September

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pp. 407-430

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Armies, representing the centre and left wing of the great pivoting front, were still involved in slow but progressing battles for the Aisne and Meuse sectors. Meanwhile, on the extreme right flank, First Army tirelessly endeavoured to reap the rewards of Second Army’s victory at St. Quentin by relentlessly pursuing the French south and even attempting to cut off their retreat...

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XIIIPpThe OHL,31 August–2 September

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pp. 431-448

On the evening of 30 august, the ohl decided to turn the western Army’s great wheeling wing from its general southwesterly direction of advance toward the south so as to secure a connection with Third Army in the centre. A message from First Army indicated that its commander had already anticipated this intention by pivoting it right flank toward the Oise. This same message ...

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XIV The Pursuit of the German Right Wing across the Marne on 3–4 September

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pp. 449-466

First Army Headquarters had hoped to provide Second Army’s frontal pursuit with effective flanking support by advancing both its left flanking corps north of the Marne towards Château-Thierry. However, the situation changed drastically on 3 September....

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XV The OHL, 3–4 September

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pp. 467-486

After the evening of 2 September, the success of the great german operation in the West depended on the success of General von Moltke’s plan to push most of the French Army toward the southeast, away from Paris. Since First Army’s task of protecting the German Army’s right flank kept it from actively participating, the progress of Second Army’s pursuit was of utmost significance to...


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pp. 487-490


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pp. 491-502


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pp. 503-541

E-ISBN-13: 9781554583942
E-ISBN-10: 1554583942
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554583737
Print-ISBN-10: 155458373X

Page Count: 600
Publication Year: 2013