World War One is complicated and convoluted, and (IMHO) should never (ever) have happened. Learning about it is like watching a line of dominoes falling over and being completely unable to prevent what happens next. I have had to teach myself, over and over, to fully understand what happened to create the breeding ground for such an excruciating four years. That one death (Archduke Ferdinand) could cause an eventual war killing twenty million people, is mind boggling to me. Twenty Million. Today I will be writing about the first battle: the Siege of Liege and the activities we did.
These are my go-to books to learn about each part of the First World War in language that I understand. I read them out loud to the girls, choosing the topic we are learning about at the time. And then they narrate back to me, so I can make sure we’ve all understood!
These videos are the absolute best at describing the minutiae of the events of the Great War in a week by week byplay. They use more advanced vocabulary than my youngest understands, as well as language I’d rather both girls weren’t exposed to. However, I do feel the benefits outweigh this (but you may disagree so do pre-watch!).
The Siege of Liege Activities: Understanding the Battle
So, as we learnt in my post about the causes of World War One, a Serbian assassin from the terrorist group the Black Hand murdered Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. This was seen by the Austrian-Hungary government as a direct assault on their country by Serbia. Itching to start a war, the Austrian-Hungary government wrote a list of demands which the Serbians had to agree to. One demand was that the Serbians allow the Austrian-Hungarians to govern their judicial system, ultimately handing over their power. The Serbians were unwilling to do this. So, the Austrian-Hungarians declared war on Serbia.
The Impact of the Ally System
The Serbians called on their allies Russia to come to their aid. Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary. Germany, who was in alliance with Austria-Hungary, immediately declared war on Russia. This brought in the French on the side of the Russians. At this stage, Britain refused to get involved in a war over in Europe. And this sets the stage for the Siege of Liege
The Schlieffen Plan
General Count Alfred Von Schlieffen, chief of the Imperial German Army, came up with this military plan to invade their long time enemy France, via Belgium, in 1905. Yes, years before the war began. In 1914, the Germans knew that Russia had a huge conscription army, but also a huge landmass to travel over in order to mobilise. They also knew that France was too well fortified across its French-German borders to be weak enough to succumb to a raid. They took the decision to initiate the Schlieffen plan early on in the war, to get ahead of the Russians invading them to their East.
The Schlieffen Plan was a military plot to use Belgium to surprise France at its less fortified French-Belgium border. The goal was to defeat France in the West quickly and be battle ready for the Russians in the East.
Belgium was independent and neutral at the beginning of the Great War. Britain had agreed to protect Belgium’s independence in the event it was threatened. Germany did ask Belgium for permission for passage which they refused. But Germany invaded despite this. Britain immediately mobilised her troops to defend Belgium. This is all shown on our map below:
The Siege of Liege Activities
Here you have to use your imagination. I couldn’t get hold of inexpensive plastic World War One soldiers and artillery, so these are not era specific 🤪
However, hands on learning is always more preferable to just book learning so here goes…
Abigail labelled Liege in Belgium and set up the German army invading the fortified city of Liege. Becca added the Belgium Army:
Belgium proved to be far more feisty than Germany had thought, and fought and defended their city with everything they had. The Germans used a Zeppelin for the first air attack during a war on the 6th August. Still Liege held its own. It wasn’t until a field howitzer and Big Bertha gun was employed that the Germans defeated Liege after a total of twelve days:
Seen as a moral if not a military victory for Belgium, the Germans lost more men than they thought they would. Belgium had held their own and were much harder to defeat than the Germans foresaw. They did defeat them in the end though:
The moment the Germans invaded Belgium, Britain joined the war and mobilised their troops to France in order to defend Belgium’s independence:
Meanwhile, in the East, Russia had mobilised their army far more efficiently than the Germans had hoped. This meant they had to redirect some of their troops to defend their Eastern borders. Thus the Battle of Tannenberg began…
The Battle of Tannenberg
This was an early battle which took place in Tannenberg (in modern day Northeastern Poland) between the 26 and 30 of August, 1914. It was between the Germans and the Russians. The Germans defeated the Russians in a decisive victory taking 92000 prisoners and killing a further 30000 Russians.
The girls set up the two countries fighting on our map:
At this point in the war, the Germans seemed to be doing well, winning battles on both the western front and the eastern front.