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Biography Erich von Falkenhayn (1861-1922)

From an aristocratic but impoverished background, Erich von Falkenhayn enjoyed a rapid rise to power, due to a considerable extent to the patronage of Kaiser Wilhelm, who had been impressed by his dispatches from the Boxer Rebellion in China. Promoted to general in 1912, he became war minister in 1913 and succeeded the crushed general von Moltke as chief of the general staff on 14 September 1914, initially combining that post with the war ministry, which he headed until February 1915. An over-cautious, even indecisive commander, he hesitated to commit resources fully to any one theatre, although the demands made upon him were insupportable. His decision to release troops to make a major effort on the Eastern Front produced significant results, but after a period of containment on the Western Front he accepted the attritional theory of defeating the French by causing them immense casualties at Verdun. The consequent failures of 1916, and hostility to his command by Hindenburg and Ludendorff and others, resulted in his resignation in late August 1916. 
In mid-September he accepted a considerable demotion in an active field command, leading the German Ninth Army against Roumania with complete success, but when sent to Turkey, to recapture Mesopotamia, he failed. The Mesopotamian effort proving impossible, he was sent to Palestine, but was unable to halt the British progress, and was relieved by general Liman von Sanders in February 1918. He spent the remainder of the war in relative obscurity, commanding the Tenth Army in Lithuania.

(Source: Philip J. Haythornthwaite - The World War One source book)

Back to: Phase 1 -  The preparations before the Battle