BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

20 October 2014
world war one
BBC Schools  Homepage

BBC Homepage
World War I Home
Web Links
Schools Help

Contact Us

Trench Warfare
Why was there Stalemate on the Western Front?

The Schlieffen Plan, aimed at dealing with war on two fronts, failed to achieve the quick and decisive victory over France that Germany had hoped for. Their initial advance was met with strong resistance from Belgium giving Russia and Britain time to mobilise their troops. Then the French and British halted the German attack on Paris at the Battle of Marne. The German Army was forced to retreat behind the River Aisne where they dug in to protect themselves against the advancing Allies. Faced with an impenetrable German line the Allies themselves dug in.

The Commanders of the opposing sides, Joffre and Falkenhayn, realised that the advantage now lay to the North between their position on the Aisne and the Sea. A race began to take control of this position. Without weakening their grip on the defensive line of trenches, each army tried to outflank the other to gain the advantage. This so called 'Race for the Sea' ended at the first battle of Ypres.

By the end of 1914 the offensive approach had been abandoned in favour of a defensive line of trenches that stretched along the Western Front from the North Sea to the Swiss border. The conflict, which had started out as a war of mobility, quickly developed into a war of attrition, ruining any hope of a quick war that would be over by Christmas.

Why do you think the the War was not over by Christmas?

Click here for help

A - The German Army was not prepared for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.

B - Both sides were quite evenly matched.

C - The two sides lacked experience in this scale of trench warfare and were tactically ill-prepared. This was unlike any war that had been fought before it.

Go to Timeline Print text  prev 2  3  4  next 

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy