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"lions Led By Donkeys" - Topic Close To Billb's Heart


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But if they had undertaken such an action, British merchant ships, particularly those trading with France, would be just as much at risk as French ships. German maritime actions of that nature would surely have to expect a British response. Even the Kaiser could have worked that one out. Thats less a desire to partake of action, than an understanding than any unilateral German actions on the high sea around Britain was inevitably going to affect Britain.

 

 

The British naval pledge would force Germany to keep its fleet in port, for fear of an incident between a German warship(s) and the Royal Navy. (Presumably London and Berlin could work out specific arrangements for the German warships in distant waters, if the intention to the pledge was to find an opportunity for British neutrality rather than create the reason for war).

 

On the other side of the ledger, no such restriction existed for French warships, which therefore had the run of the English Channel and North Atlantic. With German warships at anchor for fear of complications and French warships having free reign, Germany's merchant fleet could be hunted down by the French fleet, while France could enjoy the advantages of naval supremacy behind the shield of the RN.

 

Overall, quite an unstable proposal, as Germany would presumably be willing to accomodate the situation only for as long as it took to defeat Russia, after which Britain's position would be weaker.

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Its possible the German medical officer may just have been aware of the stories as everyone else (it did received wide publicity during and immediately after WW1) but that is interesting.

 

 

A do admit that a thirty-year old story from a fellow I once met about another guy he says he once met forty years earlier is not exactly iron-clad proof. It isn't as if I could contact either of them to get more details - the original story-teller is assuredly dead by now and I suspect the fellow who told me has probably gone too.

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Why?

 

I often see it said that Britain would join in, or would have to, without any explanation of causes or motives. You've made an assertion, but not forward any arguments to support it.

 

 

Here,

 

http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/1914m/gooch/476-500.htm

 

(35412) No. 487.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie.

Foreign Office, August 2, 1914.

Tel. (No. 303.)

D. 4:45 P.M.

After the Cabinet this morning I gave M. Cambon the following aide-mémoire:

"I am authorised to give an assurance that if the German fleet comes into the Channel or through the North Sea to undertake hostile operations against French coasts or shipping the British fleet will give all the protection in its power.

...

 

Bolded part; the effect of the Royal Navy preventing German warships from exiting the North Sea should be French domination of the Atlantic, presumably to the purpose of hunting down German merchant vessels.

 

 

This message was sent on August 2nd. Germany had already declared war on Russia by then, & was mobilising against France, in line with the Schlieffen Plan. Didn't you read the scenario I set out?

 

What I'm postulating is that in the last few days of July, Germany did some things differently from IRL. E.g. it was firmer in its attempts to restrain A-H (feeble & distinctly half-hearted IRL), it responded in a purely defensive way to Russian mobilisation against A-H, it tried to negotiate a naval accord with the UK, etc. You're assuming that none of what I postulate happened, & everything went as in real life. Irrelevant to the argument.

 

What if Germany doesn't make any hostile moves against French coasts or shipping? What it Germany (which has not attacked France, or declared war) announces plans to escort convoys of German merchant ships from neutral ports, & informs the UK (as a courtesy) of the German warship movements which form part of this plan. Does the UK attack, & thus make war on Germany without provocation?

 

Then again, the German merchant fleet in the Atlantic wasn't crucial to Germany. Neutral (e.g. British) shipping could carry all Germany needed from overseas to Dutch, German & Danish ports, or to Britain for transhipment. If Britain remained non-belligerent & willing to trade, German merchant shipping could operate freely in the North Sea, & British territorial waters, shipping goods between Britain & Germany.

Edited by swerve
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The Second World War part of the story rings true. The 12th SS Panzer Division did shoot a couple of groups of Canadians taken prisoner in Normandy and after that, Canadians in North West Europe are said to have stopped taking SS prisoners.

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One thing that's clear from reading the telegrams that went back & forth, the memos, & the minutes of meetings, is that Paris, Berlin, London & St. Petersburg were in panic mode. Vienna, oddly, went sailing on serenely, not diverting from its course.

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If we assume that the Germans do stay on the defence in the west in a war against both Russia and France, in order to defeat the Russians first (wasn´t this actually the plan before Schlieffen?) and the French find it impossible to break through anywere along the French-German border.



Is there any scenario here where the French, or the British if they join in, are the first to violate Belgian neutrality in an attempt to outflank the Germans to the north? Or was that politically impossible?



Is there any way they could make Belgium join the war on their side?

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If we assume that the Germans do stay on the defence in the west in a war against both Russia and France, in order to defeat the Russians first (wasn´t this actually the plan before Schlieffen?) and the French find it impossible to break through anywere along the French-German border.

Is there any scenario here where the French, or the British if they join in, are the first to violate Belgian neutrality in an attempt to outflank the Germans to the north? Or was that politically impossible?

Is there any way they could make Belgium join the war on their side?

 

Belgium has a considerable French population, so I'd guess no, the Belgians wouldn't fight the French. I think in 1914 they actually may have given the Germans stiffer opposition than had been expected, throwing off the German timetable.

 

Germany was in a nutcracker between France and Russia. Russia was a huge, if primitive country, with a large population and enormous natural resources. Eventually, they could raise a very large army.

 

Russia also had a very primitive road network, so they couldn't quickly deploy large amounts of troops to the German border. So, the plan was to defeat France first with most of their troops before the Russians could arrive, and then deal with the Russians. So, once Russia started to mobilize, the Germans were running out of time.

 

Because of large number of troops you'd have to fight and the large area you'd have to conquer, Russia was seen as very difficult to conquer quickly, or at all. The experiences of Napolean and Hitler bear this out. WW1 was probably an anomaly, in that the Czar was so incompetant/unpopular that the country fell from within. So, I'd guess that Germany didn't have a serious plan to conquer Russia, because it probably wasn't possible.

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If we assume that the Germans do stay on the defence in the west in a war against both Russia and France, in order to defeat the Russians first (wasn´t this actually the plan before Schlieffen?) and the French find it impossible to break through anywere along the French-German border.

Is there any scenario here where the French, or the British if they join in, are the first to violate Belgian neutrality in an attempt to outflank the Germans to the north? Or was that politically impossible?

Is there any way they could make Belgium join the war on their side?

 

Belgium has a considerable French population, so I'd guess no, the Belgians wouldn't fight the French. I think in 1914 they actually may have given the Germans stiffer opposition than had been expected, throwing off the German timetable.

 

Germany was in a nutcracker between France and Russia. Russia was a huge, if primitive country, with a large population and enormous natural resources. Eventually, they could raise a very large army.

 

Russia also had a very primitive road network, so they couldn't quickly deploy large amounts of troops to the German border. So, the plan was to defeat France first with most of their troops before the Russians could arrive, and then deal with the Russians. So, once Russia started to mobilize, the Germans were running out of time.

 

Because of large number of troops you'd have to fight and the large area you'd have to conquer, Russia was seen as very difficult to conquer quickly, or at all. The experiences of Napolean and Hitler bear this out. WW1 was probably an anomaly, in that the Czar was so incompetant/unpopular that the country fell from within. So, I'd guess that Germany didn't have a serious plan to conquer Russia, because it probably wasn't possible.

 

All of the above is quite true but remember that the Schlieffen-plan failed! If the Germans had stayed on the defence the relatively short German-French border looks pretty nice compared to the OTL western front stretching from Switzerland to the English Channel and would probably have saved the Germans a number of divisions that could then be used against the Russians. But if the Germans have to fight along the Belgian border as well then much of that advantage is lost. Clearly a very strong incentive for the French (and British) to get creative.

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I don't know if this is the appropriate place for this, but I'll post it here anyway. I don't remember whether it was in this thread or another where mobilisation of the armies was discussed. I've been reading A.J.P. Taylor's War By Timetable, and it includes the following excerpt from a report by Major General Sir Edward Spears, who observed the French mobilisation process in Aug. '1914.

 

If the mobilisation is delayed or slowed,the enemy will be enabled to advance with a fully equipped army against an unprepared one, which would be disasterous.

 

The time factor also makes it essential that the armies, once mobilised, should find themselves where they can at once take up the role assigned them. There is no opportunity for extensive manouvres: mobilisation is in itself a manoevre at the end of which the armies must be ready to strike according to the pre-arranged plan.

 

The plan is therefore obviously of vital importance. It has the necessity to be somewhat rigid, for it has to be worked out in every detail beforehand. From the moment mobilisation is ordered, every man must know where he is to join, and must get there at a given time. Each unit, once complete and fully equipped,must be ready to proceed on a given day at the appointed hour to a pre-arranged destination in a train awaiting it, which in its turn must move according to a prepared railway scheme. Each unit has also to drop into its place in the higher formations, and these again must find themselves grouped in a position according to the fundamental plan. No change, no alteration is possible during mobilisation. Improvisation when dealing with nearly three million men and the movements of 4,278 trains, as the French had to do, is out of the question.

 

Taylor goes on to note that the only one of the great armies which had actually done a full mobilisation was that of the Russians, for the Russo-Japanese War, which had very little in common with that of 1914. Some staffs, most notably the Germans, had complete confidence in the efficiency of their rail systems to not only gather the armies, but to simultaneously continue their peacetime duties. Others, such as Russia and Austria, expected problems, and tried to factor them into their overall plans. None of the major powers had tried a full-on "dress rehearsal" of mobilisation.

 

Taylor also mentions, but doesn't elaborate on, parts of the German plan which foresaw some units completing their mobilisations in foreign, and even enemy, countries. Does anyone have more info on that?

 

Please be gentle; I have mostly only posted in the FFZ because I have felt that I usually have nothing to add to the serious fora. As my reading on WWI is in my own mobilisation phase for the centennial of August 1914, I am hoping to be able to contribute something worthwhile as I learn more. I admit to feeling somewhat inadequate to the task, considering the presence here of actual historians and some of you others, whose knowledge base is much wider than my own. My enthusiasm for WWI is such that I am willing to try to expand my horizons, here on Our Grating Sight.

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The reason for Germany attacking France is because it is the most dangerous opponent, being the most modern of them, and in nothing more than basic Napoleonic strategic doctrine had to be eliminated first. The greater latent enemy was Russia, though. This is because of its larger population and resources under control of the autocratic Tsar, and if any time in the future the Russians happened to improve R&D, industrial engineering, or just double their rail trackage as the new French loans were supposed to facilitate, all was lost. These were the thoughts of the militarists above all, and why the Great General Staff could brook no wavering on the part of the hereditary prince who just happened at that time to be on the throne of the German Empire.

 

Remember, Germany had its notions of Drang nacht Osten long before the first Nazi was born. For pre-1914 Germans, the concept and incipient ideology was Mitteleuropa, the combining of the resources and population of the region from the Rhine to the Donetz, all under the obviously enlightened and superior knowledge and leadership of Guess Who. Although the 1914 war came not out of this, its losses, cost and sacrifices reinforced Mitteleuropa thought in both German empires, hence the particular severety of the Treaty of Berst-Litovsk in 1918.

 

These similarities in the German view toward the east is only part of what caused many historians to speak of the continuity of German History through 1945, and of course the many references to the Long Armistice, 1919-1939.

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This message was sent on August 2nd. Germany had already declared war on Russia by then, & was mobilising against France, in line with the Schlieffen Plan. Didn't you read the scenario I set out?

 

What I'm postulating is that in the last few days of July, Germany did some things differently from IRL. E.g. it was firmer in its attempts to restrain A-H (feeble & distinctly half-hearted IRL), it responded in a purely defensive way to Russian mobilisation against A-H, it tried to negotiate a naval accord with the UK, etc. You're assuming that none of what I postulate happened, & everything went as in real life. Irrelevant to the argument.

 

What if Germany doesn't make any hostile moves against French coasts or shipping? What it Germany (which has not attacked France, or declared war) announces plans to escort convoys of German merchant ships from neutral ports, & informs the UK (as a courtesy) of the German warship movements which form part of this plan. Does the UK attack, & thus make war on Germany without provocation?

 

Then again, the German merchant fleet in the Atlantic wasn't crucial to Germany. Neutral (e.g. British) shipping could carry all Germany needed from overseas to Dutch, German & Danish ports, or to Britain for transhipment. If Britain remained non-belligerent & willing to trade, German merchant shipping could operate freely in the North Sea, & British territorial waters, shipping goods between Britain & Germany.

 

 

 

At the point the naval pledge was made, Germany had declared war on Russia, but not France, had mobilized, but not committed any irrevocable steps in the west, (the ultimatum to Belgium was not yet delivered). The DOW on Russia is the main difference between your scenario and this one, but the British pledge to France I think was more related to the Franco-German mobilizations than it was to the German DOW on Russia, (could be wrong on that point).

 

In terms of the German navy convoying German merchant ships and using British neutral hulls, that's for the British to make that call whether it would or would not trigger the pledge, whether Britain would or would not cooperate with Germany to circumventing the French blockade. The problem is that if it ruled for Germany, the French become embittered, if it rules for France, the Germans are embittered. Either the Triple Entente is risked, or Britain drifts towards war with Germany.

 

Stepping back, the British strategy in WW1 was to create a grand coalition and engage Germany on multiple fronts. The German strategy was to split the Entente and defeat individual members of the Entente one by one, separating them off before moving on to the next. If Britain and Germany "did" the deal you are outlining, then this effectively splits the Entente and separates Russia off. The British proposal would interfere with its own war strategy of alliance unity (Russia is isolated) and would assist Germany's strategy to dealing with one member of the Entente at a time. All fine and good if the point is an alliance with Germany, potentially disasterous if alliance with Germany is ruled out.

 

Assuming it works, there are two outcomes that seem disasterous for the British, unless the purpose is alliance with Germany. (1) Russia is so enraged at the British deal with Germany that it renounces the Triple Entente and allies with Germany or (2) the Germans don't stay on the defensive in the east, they go on the offensive to take the Russians out. In either case (3) - once Russia is neutralized, the entire Austro-German army can come around France straight through Belgium. Any of these cases could see Germany exploiting the British neutrality proposal in a way detrimental to British interests, meaning that there would be risk to Britain's position by making such a deal.

Edited by glenn239
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Remember, Germany had its notions of Drang nacht Osten long before the first Nazi was born. For pre-1914 Germans, the concept and incipient ideology was Mitteleuropa, the combining of the resources and population of the region from the Rhine to the Donetz, all under the obviously enlightened and superior knowledge and leadership of Guess Who. Although the 1914 war came not out of this, its losses, cost and sacrifices reinforced Mitteleuropa thought in both German empires, hence the particular severety of the Treaty of Berst-Litovsk in 1918.

Ken, I remember reading in some world history (might have been McNeil) that the underlying cause for both World Wars was population pressures in central and eastern Europe (lebensraum) and that only the advent of birth control has relieved these pressures since 1945.

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Remember, Germany had its notions of Drang nacht Osten long before the first Nazi was born. For pre-1914 Germans, the concept and incipient ideology was Mitteleuropa, the combining of the resources and population of the region from the Rhine to the Donetz, all under the obviously enlightened and superior knowledge and leadership of Guess Who. Although the 1914 war came not out of this, its losses, cost and sacrifices reinforced Mitteleuropa thought in both German empires, hence the particular severety of the Treaty of Berst-Litovsk in 1918.

Ken, I remember reading in some world history (might have been McNeil) that the underlying cause for both World Wars was population pressures in central and eastern Europe (lebensraum) and that only the advent of birth control has relieved these pressures since 1945.

 

Population was lower in central & eastern Europe than further west, arable land was more plentiful per head than further west . . . the difference was that in the east, there wasn't the same scope for moving to the cities & getting a better job, so there was a lot of rural poverty.

 

The eastern provinces of Germany had no overpopulation problem. On the contrary: because Germans from the poor rural areas of the east (where incomes were much lower than in central & western Germany) could easily move to cities where better-paid jobs could be come by, there would have been rural depopulation & labour shortages if not for Poles moving in to take the low-paid farm work that was all the local economy could offer. So where was this population pressure? Where was the need for Lebensraum?

 

Much the same in Austria-Hungary, which had very poor areas (but mostly getting less poor), e.g. Galicia (Polish in the west, Ukrainian in the east) - from where people emigrated to the USA, or to the richer and just as densely populated, but more urbanised & industrialised German & Czech provinces in the western part of the empire.

 

Labourers from Poland used to head west for seasonal work in Denmark before WW1. Denmark had a similar population density to Poland. So where was this population crisis?

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As good a place to put this as any- a very good six-part documentary series by the late Richard Holmes called Western Front.

 

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It's clearly "Brit-centered", no doubt :) But still, plenty of interesting stuff.

 

Regarding the trench rotation, how was it with other armies? I guess the realisation that a soldier can take only so much at the sharp end was not unique, but the resources might have been quite different for example for Germans.

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In so far as strategic bombing is concerned, or unrestricted submarine warfare, or chemical warfare, not so much. But in fairness those elements of modern warfare have thankfully waned since WW2.

Oh, strategic bombing is alive and well, if anything more popular than ever. These days it's just called "surgical precision strikes" :)

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Today, its politically incorrect to delivery area attacks, and all targets today, as they do primarily have to be military as opposed to political targets, are little more than very long range tactical attacks.

It's less different than you think. Real "area attacks" were in fact very rare in WW2, as far as operational planning is considered. Nearly all air attacks were at least nominally targeted against military or strategic targets (garrisons, HQ's, railyards, factories etc). It's just that it was very difficult to actually hit anywhere close to those targets (often even find them), and most of the bombs "accidentally" ended up levelling city blocks around the target. Which was very unfortunate, yes, but it was collateral damage and we didn't really mean it, and that's what counts, right??

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Today, its politically incorrect to delivery area attacks, and all targets today, as they do primarily have to be military as opposed to political targets, are little more than very long range tactical attacks.

It's less different than you think. Real "area attacks" were in fact very rare in WW2, as far as operational planning is considered. Nearly all air attacks were at least nominally targeted against military or strategic targets (garrisons, HQ's, railyards, factories etc). It's just that it was very difficult to actually hit anywhere close to those targets (often even find them), and most of the bombs "accidentally" ended up levelling city blocks around the target. Which was very unfortunate, yes, but it was collateral damage and we didn't really mean it, and that's what counts, right??

 

Er - not really. It was recognised quite early that night bombing wasn't accurate enough to hit factories (at the time, it wasn't accurate enough to hit cities much of the time,,but it got better), but early in 1942 it was decided that bombing cities was justified even if it was unlikely that factories, rail yards etc. would be destroyed, because the workers' housing would be destroyed, production would thereby be disrupted, & the spirit of the people would be broken by them being made homeless, It was called "dehousing". The fact that very many workers & their families would die in their homes was glossed over.

 

So,levelling city blocks wasn't collateral damage for Bomber Command, it was the objective.

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Today, its politically incorrect to delivery area attacks, and all targets today, as they do primarily have to be military as opposed to political targets, are little more than very long range tactical attacks.

It's less different than you think. Real "area attacks" were in fact very rare in WW2, as far as operational planning is considered. Nearly all air attacks were at least nominally targeted against military or strategic targets (garrisons, HQ's, railyards, factories etc). It's just that it was very difficult to actually hit anywhere close to those targets (often even find them), and most of the bombs "accidentally" ended up levelling city blocks around the target. Which was very unfortunate, yes, but it was collateral damage and we didn't really mean it, and that's what counts, right??

 

Er - not really. It was recognised quite early that night bombing wasn't accurate enough to hit factories (at the time, it wasn't accurate enough to hit cities much of the time,,but it got better), but early in 1942 it was decided that bombing cities was justified even if it was unlikely that factories, rail yards etc. would be destroyed, because the workers' housing would be destroyed, production would thereby be disrupted, & the spirit of the people would be broken by them being made homeless, It was called "dehousing". The fact that very many workers & their families would die in their homes was glossed over.

 

So,levelling city blocks wasn't collateral damage for Bomber Command, it was the objective.

 

 

But IIRC, Bomber Command got so good at night bombing that its accuracy hitting pinpoint targets was better than the USian equivalent.

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It's less different than you think. Real "area attacks" were in fact very rare in WW2, as far as operational planning is considered. Nearly all air attacks were at least nominally targeted against military or strategic targets (garrisons, HQ's, railyards, factories etc). It's just that it was very difficult to actually hit anywhere close to those targets (often even find them), and most of the bombs "accidentally" ended up levelling city blocks around the target. Which was very unfortunate, yes, but it was collateral damage and we didn't really mean it, and that's what counts, right??

Er - not really. It was recognised quite early that night bombing wasn't accurate enough to hit factories (at the time, it wasn't accurate enough to hit cities much of the time,,but it got better), but early in 1942 it was decided that bombing cities was justified even if it was unlikely that factories, rail yards etc. would be destroyed, because the workers' housing would be destroyed, production would thereby be disrupted, & the spirit of the people would be broken by them being made homeless, It was called "dehousing". The fact that very many workers & their families would die in their homes was glossed over.

 

So,levelling city blocks wasn't collateral damage for Bomber Command, it was the objective.

 

I'm well aware of the 'dehousing' objective. I've however understood that even then, nominally the target was usually a railyard, dock or manufacturing centre (for example, big Hamburg 1942 raid was nominally targeting the docks, Dresden raids were mostly towards manufacturing and rail yards, etc). Although I guess it's possible that even this thinnest pretense was abandoned eventually, I'm not sure. USAAF at least in Europe always nominally targeted military or strategic targets, ditto for Soviets. Germans usually, too.

 

Anyway, we dont have to do any of that crap now, and good job too. Any civilians killed are largely collaterally lost, rather than arguably part of the target. Im glad that we seem to have moved beyond that, at least for the time being.

I disagree. I think Western Powers are being quite hypocritical about todays bombing offensives just because they're more accurate. Modern morality seems to be that if you shoot or bayonet a civilian to death personally, it's a war crime, but if you bomb him from many km's/thousands of km's away anonymously - often not giving any forewarning and chance to take cover - then it's ok, as if the victim was less dead because you didn't really mean it. At least during WW2 it took like couple of years from targeting logic to trickle down from purely military targets to 'civilian targets with military signifance', nowadays such assumption seems to be in place immediately, such as NATO in Yugoslavia where they began to target civilian installations almost immediately, sometimes with only whimsiest logic behind them. I mean, once you decide things like TV stations have 'military signifance', you're pretty much one step away from bombing kindergartens.

 

It's a slippery slope, and one day the West is going to get a rude wakening and realize they can't climb back anymore.

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