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Encyclopedia > Battle of Liège

The Battle of Liège was the opening battle of the German invasion into Belgium, and the first battle of World War I. Ypres, 1917, in the vicinity of the Battle of Passchendaele. ...


The plan

In 1870, soon after the German military defeated the French in the Franco-Prussian War, German military leader Helmuth von Moltke began formulating a plan to fight a two-front war, against France and Russia. Germany would have to invade one country while defending against the other. By the end of the 19th century, it was apparent that France was the more powerful and dangerous of the two countries -- Germany possessed Alsace and Lorraine, two fruits of their victory in the Franco-Prussian War, and France would eventually deploy her growing armies to retake those regions. 1870 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... The Franco-Prussian War (July 19, 1870 – May 10, 1871) was fought between France and Prussia (backed by the North German Confederation) allied with the south German states of Baden, Bavaria and Württemberg. ... Graf Moltke Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke (October 26, 1800 - April 24, 1891), who became Helmuth Graf von Moltke in 1870, was a famous Prussian general. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Capital Strasbourg Area 8,280 km² Regional President Adrien Zeller Population  - 2004 estimate  - 1999 census  - Density 1,793,000 1,734,145 209/km² Arrondissements 13 Cantons 75 Communes 903 Départements Bas-Rhin Haut-Rhin Alsace (French: Alsace; Alsatian/German: Elsaß) is a région and also a traditional province of... Capital Metz Area 23,547 km² Regional President Jean-Pierre Masseret Population  - 2005 estimate  - 1999 census  - Density 2,310,376 98/km² Arrondissements 19 Cantons 157 Communes 2,337 Départements Meurthe-et-Moselle Meuse Moselle Vosges Lorraine ( German: Lothringen) is a historical area in present-day northeast France. ...

Moltke's successor, the Count Alfred von Schlieffen, decided to cover the Russians' probable advance with a single army, while attacking and annihilating France with seven armies. However, this would be much more difficult than it seemed. The French, under the guidance of military engineer General Sere de Rivieres, had built defenses along its eastern borders. Germany could not attack through Switzerland -- the Swiss army was 500,000 strong, well-trained, and highly patriotic. They could not attack directly into France, because of the strong defenses placed there. Therefore, von Schlieffen and his successor, also named Helmuth von Moltke (the elder von Moltke's nephew), decided to invade through northern Belgium, utilizing their efficient railway system, and quickly march through the heart of France, and eventually straight into Paris. Meanwhile, they would leave a few armies along the German-French border, because the French plan called for a counter-offensive in case of a German attack. Definition A count is a nobleman in most European countries, equivalent in rank to a British earl, whose wife is still a countess. Originally the title comes denoted the rank of a high courtier or provincial (military or administrative) official in the late Roman Empire: before Anthemius was made emperor... Categories: Stub | 1833 births | 1913 deaths ... A nations army is its military, or more specifically, all of its land forces. ... An engineer may be someone who practices the engineering profession, or the driver of a rail locomotive. ... General is a military rank, in most nations the highest rank, although some nations have the higher rank of Field Marshal. ... Colonel General Helmuth von Moltke Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke (May 25, 1848–June 18, 1916), also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. ...

However, there were two problems with this plan. It called for a violation of Belgium neutrality, which would certainly cause the United Kingdom to enter the war. Also, the city of Liège was in the path of the German forces. Liège (Dutch: Luik, German: Lüttich) is a major city located in the Belgian province of Liège, of which it is the capital. ...

Liège was a highly fortified city at the time. The river Meuse ran through its center: on the south bank, there were massive industrial facilities, factories, and other things that would assist the modern defense of the city. The city itself was placed in the Meuse River valley, with the Ardennes to its east and the rolling plains of Belgium to its west. It sat on the main rail line leading from Germany to Brussels, and eventually to Paris - the same railway that von Schlieffen and von Moltke had planned to use as transport into France. Finally, there was a line of 19th century fortifications surrounding the city, which would facilitate the defense of the city. The Meuse(Maas) at Maastricht Length 925 km Elevation of the source 409 m Average discharge 230 m³/s Area watershed 36 000 km² Origin France Mouth Hollands Diep Basin countries France - Belgium - Netherlands The Meuse (Dutch Maas) is a large European river rising in France, flowing through Belgium and... The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests and rolling hill country (its highest point is under 700 m), primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France (lending its name to the Ardennes département and the Champagne-Ardenne région) and Germany, where this range is known as... Emblem of the Brussels-Capital Region Flag of The City of Brussels Brussels (Dutch: Brussel, French: Bruxelles, German: Brüssel) is the capital of Belgium and is considered by many to be the de facto capital of the European Union, as two of its three main institutions have their headquarters... The Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of Paris throughout the world. ...

There were six forts on each bank of the river Meuse, and these forts were heavily-armed and easily-defended: a typical fort held two 15 cm and four 12 cm cannons, two 21 cm mortars, one 21 cm howitzer, and many 5.7 cm guns defending the approaches. The forts were not easily seen from the east, and would play a major role in the defense of the city.

The battle

Belgian order of battle

The 3rd Belgian Division defended the city of Liège; it was commanded by Lieutenant General Gerard Leman. Within the division, there were four brigades and various other troops: Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. ... A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of around 10,000 soldiers. ... Brigade is a term from military science which refers to a group of several battalions (typically two to four), and directly attached supporting units (normally including at least an artillery battery and additional logistic support). ...

  • 9th Mixed Brigade, including the 9th and 29th Infantry Regiments, along with the 43rd, 44th, and 45th Artillery Batteries
  • 11th Mixed Brigade, including the 11th and 31st Infantry Regiments, along with the 37th, 38th, and 39th Artillery Batteries
  • 12th Mixed Brigade, including the 12th and 32nd Infantry Regiments, along with the 40th, 41st, and 42nd Artillery Batteries
  • 14th Mixed Brigade, including the 14th and 34th Infantry Regiments, along with the 46th, 47th, and 48th Artillery Batteries
  • 15th Mixed Brigade (5 August), including the 1st and 4th Chausseur Regiments, along with the 61st, 62nd, and 63rd Artillery Batteries
  • The Fortress Guards, including the 9th, 11th, 12th, and 14th Reserve Infantry Regiments, an Artillery Regiment, four reserve batteries, and various other troops
  • 3rd Artillery Regiment, including the 40th, 49th, and 51st Artillery Batteries
  • 3rd Engineer Battalion
  • 3rd Telegraphist Section
  • 2nd Regiment of Lancers

Overall, there were about 30,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, and 250 artillery pieces to face the German onslaught. August 5 is the 217th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (218th in leap years), with 148 days remaining. ... A Lancer was a cavalry soldier who fought with a lance. ...

German order of battle



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