Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source2
Extracts from the minutes of a meeting in 1911 of the Imperial Defence Committee setting out British Army preparations for war
(Catalogue ref: CAB 38/19)
Source 2a  
   
APPRECIATION OF THE MILITARY SITUATION ON THE OUTBREAK
OF A FRANCO-GERMAN WAR.
     
Strength of the
British Army.
 
   GENERAL WILSON said that our Expeditionary Force consisted of-
1 Cavalry Division;
6 Divisions;
Army Troops;
a total of about 160,000 men.
     
Disregard of the
neutrality of
Belgium and
Luxemburg.
 

Continuing, he referred to a large-scale map and stated that for the purposes of war Luxembourg might be regarded as German and that there was reason to suppose that Germany would not hesitate to march through Southern Belgium. …

     
Strength of the
German Army.
  The total number of German divisions which could be considered as mobile and able to take and keep the field has been estimated at 121. These would probably bedistributed as follows:-
   
                    Divisions
  French frontier   .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
84
                     
  Russian Frontier   .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
27
                     
  Sea coast .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
10
                   
_____
    Total .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
121
     
   

In present circumstances, he thought that 84 divisions the limit of a German Army invading France. …

     
Source 2b    
Value of the
intervention of the
British Army.
 

Moreover, although the Belgians would possibly be content to protest against the violation of their southern provinces, they would almost certainly fight if the Germans were to invade northern Belgium as well. The Belgian field army would number 80,000 men.

On the whole front the broad result was that, although the Germans could deploy 84 division against the French 66 and the garrisons of their frontier fortresses, the Germans could not concentrate their superior force against any one point. Our 6 divisions would therefore be a material factor in the decision. Their material value, however, was far less than their moral value, which was perhaps as great as an addition of more than double their number of French troops to the French Army would be. This view was shared by the French General Staff.

SIR EDWARD GREY agreed that our military support would be of great moral value to the French.

As to the Belgians, he thought that they would avoid committing themselves as long as possible in order to try and make certain of being on the winning side.

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