FALL IN 2014 - HOME BEFORE THE LEAVES FALL!
Our theme is The Guns of August, 1914 - the Great War Begins.
“SOME DAMNED FOOLISH THING in the Balkans,” Bismarck had predicted, would ignite the next war. The assassination of the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serbian nationalists on June 28, 1914, satisfied his condition.” Thus wrote Barabara Tuchman in her military history masterpiece, The Guns of August.
Bismarck was terribly right.
What followed during the first month of World War I, August and a little beyond, was a lightening campaign in both the East and West. At Tannenberg in East Prussia, German Commanders Hindenburg, Hoffmann and Ludendorf would use radio intelligence, railroads and the Masurian Lakes to their advantage and inflict a humiliating defeat on two Russian armies many times their size. So bad was the loss that one of the Russian commanders, Alexandr Samsonov, shot himself in the head rather than report the loss of his entire army to the Czar.
In the West, powerful German armies roared thru Belgium, crushing everything before them, in a huge swinging door that moved at break neck speed and threatened to surround the French capital of Paris. Even the introduction of the "Old Contemptable" British Expeditionary Force (BEF) seemed incapable of stemming the tide of the Kaiser's vaunted Schlieffen Plan. Given the well known adage that "as goes Paris, so goes France," a repeat of the short, six-week destruction of the French Imperial Army in the Franco-Prussian War loomed with grim certainty.
Then a miracle - on the River Marne - happened. Miscommunication caused a gap to open in the German battleline, and with the support of hundreds of Parisian taxis to move thousands of French Poilus forward, the Germans were stopped. Barely. And as the opposing armies dug in and raced to the sea in a futile attempt to outflank the other, grim reality began to set in. The First Battle of the Marne had seen over two and a half million men pursue victory. In just one week, 5 - 12 September, some 263,000 Allies and 256,000 Germans from this number had become casualties. Fighting ceased simply because the armies had little ammunition left to fire. 10 million lives later, the War to End All Wars would end on 11 November 1918. And at least metaphorically, on the 12th, World War II began.
Tuchman summed up the campaign by noting, “Human beings, like plans, prove fallible in the presence of those ingredients that are missing in maneuvers - danger, death, and live ammunition.” Perhaps you can do better and return your armies "home before the leaves fall." Are you willing to try? Grab some Bratwurst, swish down one final slug of good German beer and sling your rifle for the long march to Lancaster, PA and the HMGS Fall In Convention now scheduled for 7 - 9 November 2014. Some of history's most hard nosed commanders are in the front ranks ready to lead. Do you have the courage to follow?
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otherwise noted, illustrations by WebMeister, COL (Ret) Bill
Gray, HMGS. HMGS is a registered trademark of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, Inc. Painting "The First VC of the European War, 1914", by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr (1914), in the public domain.
Updated 23 July 2014.
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