Friday, July 29, 2016

Belgium in 1904.


     Since, according to the Belgian constitution, King Albert would become Commander in Chief only after the outbreak of war, he and Galet were unable in the meantime to impose their fears or their ideas of strategy upon the General Staff. The Staff clung to the example of 1870, when not a toe of either the Prussian or French armies had stepped over the Belgian border, although if the French had crossed into Belgian territory they would have had room enough to retreat. King Albert and Galet, however, believed that the huge growth of armies since that time made it clearer each year that if the nations marched again they would spill over onto the old pathways and meet again in the old arena. […]
     On the whole, Belgians believed him. They took their guarantee of neutrality seriously. Belgium had neglected her army frontier defenses, fortresses, anything that implied lack of confidence in the protective treaty. Socialism was the raging issue. Public apathy to what was happening abroad and a Parliament obsessed by economy allowed the army to deteriorate to a condition resembling the Turkish. Troops were ill-disciplined, slack, untidy, avoided saluting, slouched in the ranks, and refused to keep step.
     The officers' corps was little better. Because the army was considered superfluous and slightly absurd, it did not attract the best minds of ability or ambition. (pg 115)

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.

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