The Schrieffer Plan was created by General Count Alfred von Schrieffer in December 1905. The Schrieffer Plan was the operational plan for a designated attack on France once Russia, in response to international tension, had started to mobilize her forces near the German border. The execution of the Schrieffer Plan led to Britain declaring war on Germany on August 4th, 1914. In 1905, Schrieffer was chief of the German General Staff. Europe had effectively divided into two camps by this year – Germany, Austria and Italy (the Triple Alliance) on one side and Britain, France and Russia (the Triple Entente) on the other.
Schrieffer believed that the most decisive area for any future war in Europe would be in the western sector. Here, Schrieffer identified France as Germany’s most dangerous opponent. Russia was not as advanced as France in many areas and Schrieffer believed that Russia would take six weeks to mobilize her forces and that any possible fighting on the Russian-German border could be coped with by the Germans for a few weeks while the bulk of her forces concentrated on defeating France.
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Schrieffer concluded that a massive and successful surprise attack against France would be enough to put off Britain becoming involved in a continental war. This would allow Germany time (the six weeks that Schrieffer had built into his plan) to transfer soldiers who had been fighting in the successful French campaign to Russia to take on the Russians. Schrieffer also planned for the attack on France to go through Belgium and Luxemburg.
Belgium had had her neutrality guaranteed by Britain in 1839 – so his strategy for success depended on Britain not supporting Belgium. In fact, the attack in August 1914 nearly succeeded and was only defeated by the first Battle of the Marne. Poor communication between the frontline commanders and the army’s headquarters in Berlin did not help Moltke’s control of the campaign.
Also the withdrawal of German troops in response to a higher than expected threat on the Russian front, meant that the Germans did not have the military clout that Schrieffer had built into his original plan. It was a plan that nearly succeeded but its success could only be measured by being 100% successful. France had to be defeated – and this did not happen. Schrieffer’s speedy attack and expected defeat of France never occurred – its failure did usher in the era of trench warfare that is so much linked to World War One.