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By the 40th day after mobilisation the German High Command expected to have brought the French and British armies to a decisive battle and destroyed them. This conclusion to Schlieffen’s famous Plan relied on the Russians taking at least this length of time to mobilise via their poor railway system.
The BEF played a small but significant part in the battle of the Marne even though Field Marshall French had seriously contemplated removing his men from the action to reform and rest. However, this major battle was largely won through the determination and courage of the French soldiers and their leaders.
The French snatched a conclusive victory from what looked like an imminent defeat. The German High Command failed in its attempt to capture Paris and force the French government to capitulate. The ‘race to the sea’ now followed, in which the Allies and Central Powers atempted to outflank each other. The line of trenches was then settled from the North Sea to Switzerland.
The Allies and the Central Powers now knew that the war would continue far longer than they had thought. The next few years would be spent in learning how to fight a new kind of war with new weapons in the air and on the ground. The price of this process would be paid in blood.