ATTACK IS THE BEST FORM OF DEFENCE: GERMAN DEPLOYMENT AND THE FIRST WEEKS OF WAR
One cannot go to war with dreamers!Generaloberst von Beseler, 15 September 1914
When mobilization was finally declared and war had become a reality, the mood among the General Staff and the Ministry of War was one of elation. Wenninger recorded beaming faces everywhere in the Ministry when he went there following the declaration of war, and ‘shaking of hands in the corridors, they congratulate each other on having jumped the ditch’. The anxious period of waiting was over, as Major von Nida, who had been one of those troops immediately bound for Liège, recalled almost nostalgically in 1920:
On Saturday afternoon on 1 August I had returned home late, after we had waited for hours in vain at the General Staff for the Mob[ilization] Order. At 6 o'clock in the evening I sent my batman once again into Berlin, who suddenly appeared in front of me out of breath: Mobilization!! At last! At last! Went immediately to fetch the familiar secret maps for the attack from the General Staff, a brief instruction, a quick handshake, the last preparations in haste, a grave good-bye at home – and off we were carried by the train, away from tumultuous Berlin to the West, the starting point of our activities.
When mobilization was declared, the details of the carefully guarded mobilization plan required only distribution. After the war, Tappen recalled this momentous occasion following years of preparation and anticipation as ‘a strange feeling, when the big iron cupboards that contained the carefully guarded deployment material, to which our daily and often nightly thinking, worrying and working during countless hours had been dedicated, quickly began to empty’.