3west, particularly if England should use the violation of Belgian neutrality as a
pretext for entering the war against us.’
While the invasion of Belgium was thedirect factor in Britain entering the war it is likely that they would have enteredanyway as they could not accept the defeat of France. By 1913 Moltke did not
doubt that Britain would ‘get actively involved in the war on our opponents’ side,whether we march through Belgium or not’.
Moltke decided that the best strategy to open the campaign was a suddensurprise attack on Liège and the surrounding forts and it was essential that thisrisky
coup de main
, should be carried out immediately after war was declared.Moltke argued in a meeting with Bethmann Hollweg, German Chancellor from1909 to 1917 on the evening of 31 July 1914 that it would be essential to launchthe attack in the west the moment Russia proclaimed mobilization. Moltke hopedthat this would ensure that the onslaught against France would be carried out before Russian mobilization and before the fighting began on the eastern front.The Liège operation had been kept a deep secret, and it is likely that even theKaiser himself was not aware of it.
If the German army captured Liège it wouldbe able to pass large numbers of soldiers speedily through the four lines of railway track which ran south from Liège through the Belgian plain. The problemwas that if there were any hitches in proceedings Germany might be left wideopen to invasion from Russian troops in the east.
The Schlieffen Plan, Critique of a Myth.
Oswald Wolff (Publishers) Limited,London, 1958.Original edition published by Verlag R. Oldenbourg, Munich, 1956, p.166.
Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War.
Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2001. p.155.
The Origins of the First World War.
Third edition, Routledge, London, 2002,p.17.