RACE TO THE SEA IN WORLD WAR I
The ‘Race to the Sea’ was one of the major events in the early period of World War I and occurred throughout September and October of 1914. World War I began in the summer of 1914, and saw major conflicts between the German Army and the Allied Powers of Britain and France along the Western Front. The Western Front was the name given to the line of fighting that occurred in Belgium and along the northeastern regions of France throughout the war.
When World War I began, Germany attempted to carry out its plan of attack, which was referred to as the Schlieffen Plan. In short, the Schlieffen Plan was Germany’s response to being surrounded by the Allied Powers. For example, on its western border, Germany had to contend with France and Britain, while on the eastern border they had to face the Russian Army. In response, Germany developed the Schlieffen Plan, which aimed at advancing quickly through Belgium and attacking France. The goal of the Schlieffen Plan was to capture Paris, the French capital, and knock France out of the war, thus eliminating a two-front war. While the Schlieffen Plan was initially successful with the German victory in the Battle of the Frontiers, it was ultimately stopped in the First Battle of the Marne, occurred from September 6th to the 12th in 1914. Following the German loss at the First Battle of the Marne, the British and French forces counterattacked the Germans in the First Battle of the Aisne, which took place from September 13th to the 28th. This attack saw the Allied forces advance against the retreating Germans.
The Race to the Sea immediately followed the events of the First Battle of the Marne and the First Battle of the Aisne. Essentially Germany had been stopped from capturing Paris, and both the Germans and the Allied nations of France and Britain ‘raced’ north as they tried to gain a flank on each other. British and French forces countered the German push north throughout September and October until the two sides reached the North Sea in Belgium on October 19th. The Race to the Sea involved several smaller conflicts between the German Army and the Allied forces, but neither side gained a decisive advantage. What resulted was a line of trenches that extended throughout much of Belgium and northern France. It was along this line of trenches that some of the most significant battles of World War I took place. Furthermore, this became known as the Western Front. The fighting of World War I on the Western Front was characterized by trench warfare and continuous stalemate.
In the end, the Race to the Sea was a significant event in the early stages of World War I because it helped set the stage for the rest of the war. As stated above, the Race to the Sea was the result of the German failure to capture Paris as part of the Schlieffen Plan. As well, it led to the stalemate on the Western Front, which resulted in years of trench warfare and bloody conflict.
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