Starting the First World War Early: The Three Virgins February 8, 2014Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
Two years ago Strange History ran a post on the German who accidentally started WW2 five days too early by invading Poland with something resembling a Third Reich version of the A-Team. However, I’ve recently come across a story about the German who accidentally started WW1 a day early. The German in question was one Lieutenant Feldmann who crossed at 19.00 1 August into Luxembourg, two days before Germany declared war on France and slapped its own hands (not too convincingly) for temporarily occupying Luxembourg and Belgium. The first thing to say here is that Feldmann and his descendants have absolutely nothing to recriminate themselves for: he was following orders (a line Germans used rather a lot in the twentieth century). An early part of the Schlieffen plan (which involved a hard push towards France, as soon as war began) had Germans seizing control of Luxembourg’s railway and before a last minute flurry of telegrams, it had looked like war in the west would start on 1 August, just as war in the east had: Germany declared war on Russia 1 August and on France 3 August. The German army had simply forgotten to tell Feldmann’s regiment that the plan was off. On the evening of the first then the 16 Infanterie Division rushed down into Troisvierges (the three virgins) in northern Luxembourg and, as longstanding German plans had required, destroyed railway tracks. Germany’s main concern in Luxembourg was that France could not outflank the German armies moving through Belgium. As this was happening the Kaiser’s office remembered their slight oversight and an order was sent recalling Feldmann and his merry men (presumably with some gauge souvenirs). Others, in fact, from the same regiment were ordered to drive across the border in motor cars – did they show their passports? – and to inform Feldmann of the oversight and Feldmann, who had been tearing up tracks for a mere half an hour, desisted. The bewildered Luxembourgians must have thought that the Germans had gone mad: the excuse incidentally used in late August 1939. But there was no time to complain, let alone to milk an insincere apology from Berlin. The day after Germans poured into Luxembourg, and this time they were in their tens of thousands. The Grand Duchy was in for the long haul, four miserable years of occupation.
Memo to Germany: it is one thing having the greatest army in the history of the world but do sort your logistics out as these early invasion things just can’t be allowed to go on…
Other wars that almost began early: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com