18 OCTOBER 1997, Page 49

Schlieffen — the end

Sir: Sarah Gainham (Letters, 11 October), 'cloth protest too much', and in conse- quence completely misses the point.

At the risk of sounding both didactic and boring, perhaps I should refer her back to the original correspondence. I would have thought it was abundantly clear that my contention is that, had the Schlieffen Plan been executed correctly, there would have been no Great War, no 'countless millions' of dead, no 'Bolshevik experiment', no Hitler, no Stalin. Hardly the subject, even in this day and age, of a joke!

Given that the Schlieffen Plan was no secret by 1913, surely the question is why did the French launch their lunatic attack on Alsace-Lorraine, the infamous Plan XVII? As to the much-vaunted 'Russian steam-roller', despite an initial burst of speed it was quickly disposed of, just as von Schlieffen had planned, with a mere ten divisions.

Finally, von Schlieffen makes no mention of his strategic thoughts having been previ- ously used against either of the Napoleons. As a student of military history he preferred, as is well known, to compare his efforts with those of Hannibal at Cannae. Perhaps a comparison with Epaminondas and Leuctra would have been closer to the mark.

Mark Corby

c/o 57 Great Cumberland Place, London W1

This correspondence is at last closed — Ed.