The battle plans


On the eve ahead of the outbreak of war, the the Central Powers aimed for the Monarchy to score victory on the Serbian front and then hold up the – supposedly – sluggish, unprepared Russians. In the meanwhile, the Germans were supposed to defeat France and then join forces to head eastwards. The military leadership of Emperor Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph I calculated with fighting no longer than a few months, thus the well-known exclamation attributed to the German ruler that was later to become notorious: “By the time the leaves fall from the trees, our victorious soldiers will be home”.

The Russian general staff was convinced that the main body of the German army will turn against the French should France enter the war and was fully informed on the planned deployment of the Austro-Hungarian army. Accordingly, Russian military forces sought to deploy two-thirds of their western armies against Hungarian units in order to instantaneously crush the supposedly weak Danubian empire. This meant that Russians moderately outnumbered the enemy (48 and a half infantry divisions against 40), which they deemed sufficient on account of Slavic units’ anticipated unreliability.