The Germans play WW 1 differently.

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T. A. Gardner
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The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by T. A. Gardner » 23 Jun 2020 01:34

The Germans knowing the various treaty arrangements in Europe in 1912 devise alternates to the Schlieffen plan in the event of a general war in Europe.

In 1914 war breaks out in the historical manner. Austria declares on Serbia, Russia declares on Austria, the Germans declare on Russia, and the French declare on Germany and Austria.

The sides are set for war to their historical levels of mobilization.

But, Germany doesn't invade Belgium. Instead, they mass troops facing France assuming the French will honor Belgian neutrality, which France does. The German defenses dig deep and in depth. The French immolate themselves trying to break the German lines.

Meanwhile, the Germans have put their best units and generals in the East and demolish the Russians. By late 1915, Russia is on the ropes and in imminence of calling for terms. The British are not in the war and selling materials to both France and Russia. The US is selling far more to Germany as they had prewar. There is no blockade of Germany. The Royal Navy refuses to do so least Britain is drug into the war. The French can't match the High Seas Fleet. The British tell both the Germans and French to keep their fleets out of the Channel.

With Russia about to collapse, and casualties mounting to close to a million, the French are now in a dilemma. They are pretty clearly not going to win against Germany. Germany has defeated their one ally. The British and Italians have tacitly told them where to take the idea of joining the war.

What does France do?

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by Futurist » 23 Jun 2020 02:09

Can the French still blockade Germany through Brittany and the opening between the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean (even if they can't access the English Channel itself)?

Anyway, in such a scenario, I wonder if both sides would be receptive to a peace where Austria-Hungary imposes harsh terms on Serbia and where Russia withdraws from Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and perhaps Riga but doesn't lose any of its other territories? In such a scenario, Germany might insist on acquiring Briey and Longwy (due to their vast deposits of iron ore) but France is likely to fight to the death (well, until Paris falls, at least) than to surrender these two territories--and would Germany actually have the willpower to engage in a long slogging match with the French towards Paris?

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by maltesefalcon » 23 Jun 2020 02:44

I have two questions for the above posters.

What is the actual path and front of the French assault if not through Belgium?

Also how does one effectively blockade the Channel unless one does it from both ends? And would this not invite the anger of the UK? In any case one could do an end run across the Hebrides and sail to Germany via the North Sea or the Skagerrak.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by Futurist » 23 Jun 2020 03:53

maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 02:44
I have two questions for the above posters.

What is the actual path and front of the French assault if not through Belgium?
The same way as in 1870-1871, I'm presuming? Or at least something extremely similar. Of course, it's worth noting that France built a lot of fortifications near its northeastern borders by 1914, so it might very well be much bloodier than in 1870-1871.
Also how does one effectively blockade the Channel unless one does it from both ends? And would this not invite the anger of the UK? In any case one could do an end run across the Hebrides and sail to Germany via the North Sea or the Skagerrak.
Yes, France will also need to blockade the North Sea.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by maltesefalcon » 23 Jun 2020 06:22

Futurist wrote:
23 Jun 2020 03:53
maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 02:44
I have two questions for the above posters.

What is the actual path and front of the French assault if not through Belgium?
The same way as in 1870-1871, I'm presuming? Or at least something extremely similar. Of course, it's worth noting that France built a lot of fortifications near its northeastern borders by 1914, so it might very well be much bloodier than in 1870-1871.
Also how does one effectively blockade the Channel unless one does it from both ends? And would this not invite the anger of the UK? In any case one could do an end run across the Hebrides and sail to Germany via the North Sea or the Skagerrak.
Yes, France will also need to blockade the North Sea.
The first question was actually directed to TA Gardner. But since you did reply...a comparative look at the Franco-German frontier maps of 1870 and 1914 show a radically different setup. One can not just assume the using same set of tactics for both wars would be practical for France.

Some of the 1870 jumping off points and much of Alsace-Lorraine were in German hands in 1914, due to France losing the earlier conflict. An over aggressive incursion eastward on the same route as 1870 invited the German army to simply envelope the French force almost immediately. Anyway, I would also hope to hear from Mr Gardner on this one.

As for the blockade question. If you agree that blockading Germany via the North Sea is required, what possible good would come from trying to blockade the Channel as well? In this timeline, it would only serve to annoy neutrals like the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands using it for commerce.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jun 2020 17:14

T. A. Gardner wrote:
23 Jun 2020 01:34
The Germans knowing the various treaty arrangements in Europe in 1912 devise alternates to the Schlieffen plan in the event of a general war in Europe.

In 1914 war breaks out in the historical manner. Austria declares on Serbia, Russia declares on Austria, the Germans declare on Russia, and the French declare on Germany and Austria.

The sides are set for war to their historical levels of mobilization.

But, Germany doesn't invade Belgium. Instead, they mass troops facing France assuming the French will honor Belgian neutrality, which France does. The German defenses dig deep and in depth. The French immolate themselves trying to break the German lines.

Meanwhile, the Germans have put their best units and generals in the East and demolish the Russians. By late 1915, Russia is on the ropes and in imminence of calling for terms. The British are not in the war and selling materials to both France and Russia. The US is selling far more to Germany as they had prewar. There is no blockade of Germany. The Royal Navy refuses to do so least Britain is drug into the war. The French can't match the High Seas Fleet. The British tell both the Germans and French to keep their fleets out of the Channel.

With Russia about to collapse, and casualties mounting to close to a million, the French are now in a dilemma. They are pretty clearly not going to win against Germany. Germany has defeated their one ally. The British and Italians have tacitly told them where to take the idea of joining the war.

What does France do?
Presumably the French read your post here, decide that under no circumstances can they give Germany a free hand in the East, and invade Belgium in August 1914. They'll keep it to south of the Meuse and the Belgians would be grateful for it. The British will declare that the violation of Belgian neutrality requires the BEF to go to Europe and off to Antwerp it goes, where it joins the Belgians in a neutrality patrol at Liege.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jun 2020 17:16

Futurist wrote:
23 Jun 2020 02:09
Can the French still blockade Germany through Brittany and the opening between the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean (even if they can't access the English Channel itself)?
Of course. Since the British navy was pledged on 2 August to blockade the German navy in Germany, the French navy was free to annihilate the German merchant fleet anywhere it could be found on the seas outside the North Sea.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by T. A. Gardner » 23 Jun 2020 17:52

maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 06:22
Futurist wrote:
23 Jun 2020 03:53
maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 02:44
I have two questions for the above posters.

What is the actual path and front of the French assault if not through Belgium?
The same way as in 1870-1871, I'm presuming? Or at least something extremely similar. Of course, it's worth noting that France built a lot of fortifications near its northeastern borders by 1914, so it might very well be much bloodier than in 1870-1871.
Also how does one effectively blockade the Channel unless one does it from both ends? And would this not invite the anger of the UK? In any case one could do an end run across the Hebrides and sail to Germany via the North Sea or the Skagerrak.
Yes, France will also need to blockade the North Sea.
The first question was actually directed to TA Gardner. But since you did reply...a comparative look at the Franco-German frontier maps of 1870 and 1914 show a radically different setup. One can not just assume the using same set of tactics for both wars would be practical for France.

Some of the 1870 jumping off points and much of Alsace-Lorraine were in German hands in 1914, due to France losing the earlier conflict. An over aggressive incursion eastward on the same route as 1870 invited the German army to simply envelope the French force almost immediately. Anyway, I would also hope to hear from Mr Gardner on this one.

As for the blockade question. If you agree that blockading Germany via the North Sea is required, what possible good would come from trying to blockade the Channel as well? In this timeline, it would only serve to annoy neutrals like the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands using it for commerce.
I am assuming that the French in accordance with their doctrine in 1914 to go on the offensive will attempt to do so somewhere between the Luxembourg and Belgian border and the Rhine. I can't see them invading Belgium and getting the British involved as a third party opponent, or worse as a quasi-ally of Germany due to their treaty with Belgium. If an offensive won't work, it is possible that France settles for holding their border and fortifying it against a potential German offensive. If that front devolves into a stalemate while Germany wins in the East against Russia that's fine. Germany still wins on that score.
On possibility is once Russia is taken out of the war, the Germans sue for peace with France. This would be of mutual benefit to both countries if a stalemate were the military situation.

The British can't legally put a blockade in force as a neutral nation to prevent shipping of goods to Germany, and the French don't have the navy or bases to do it either. That gets even harder if US shipping companies are the ones supplying the ships.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by maltesefalcon » 23 Jun 2020 18:46

glenn239 wrote:
23 Jun 2020 17:14
T. A. Gardner wrote:
23 Jun 2020 01:34
The Germans knowing the various treaty arrangements in Europe in 1912 devise alternates to the Schlieffen plan in the event of a general war in Europe.

In 1914 war breaks out in the historical manner. Austria declares on Serbia, Russia declares on Austria, the Germans declare on Russia, and the French declare on Germany and Austria.

The sides are set for war to their historical levels of mobilization.

But, Germany doesn't invade Belgium. Instead, they mass troops facing France assuming the French will honor Belgian neutrality, which France does. The German defenses dig deep and in depth. The French immolate themselves trying to break the German lines.

Meanwhile, the Germans have put their best units and generals in the East and demolish the Russians. By late 1915, Russia is on the ropes and in imminence of calling for terms. The British are not in the war and selling materials to both France and Russia. The US is selling far more to Germany as they had prewar. There is no blockade of Germany. The Royal Navy refuses to do so least Britain is drug into the war. The French can't match the High Seas Fleet. The British tell both the Germans and French to keep their fleets out of the Channel.

With Russia about to collapse, and casualties mounting to close to a million, the French are now in a dilemma. They are pretty clearly not going to win against Germany. Germany has defeated their one ally. The British and Italians have tacitly told them where to take the idea of joining the war.

What does France do?
Presumably the French read your post here, decide that under no circumstances can they give Germany a free hand in the East, and invade Belgium in August 1914. They'll keep it to south of the Meuse and the Belgians would be grateful for it. The British will declare that the violation of Belgian neutrality requires the BEF to go to Europe and off to Antwerp it goes, where it joins the Belgians in a neutrality patrol at Liege.
Sorry but your ATL does not comply with the conditions from the OP:

"assuming the French will honor Belgian neutrality, which France does."

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by maltesefalcon » 23 Jun 2020 18:50

glenn239 wrote:
23 Jun 2020 17:16
Futurist wrote:
23 Jun 2020 02:09
Can the French still blockade Germany through Brittany and the opening between the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean (even if they can't access the English Channel itself)?
Of course. Since the British navy was pledged on 2 August to blockade the German navy in Germany, the French navy was free to annihilate the German merchant fleet anywhere it could be found on the seas outside the North Sea.
Again, I think you read the OP incorrectly. UK is not a belligerent in this ATL, so no British blockade.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jun 2020 20:24

maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 18:50
Again, I think you read the OP incorrectly. UK is not a belligerent in this ATL, so no British blockade.
The British established their blockade of the German fleet on 2 August 1914, while Britain was neutral, and, as a condition of their continued neutrality. That is to say, provided the Germans themselves respected the British line in the sand and kept their fleet in Germany, far from the Atlantic, the continued neutrality of Britain could be possible. The effect of all this would be the French running down the German merchant marine from behind a neutral Britain's blockade while the German fleet turned at anchor in port.
Last edited by glenn239 on 23 Jun 2020 20:56, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jun 2020 20:55

maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 18:46
Sorry but your ATL does not comply with the conditions from the OP:

"assuming the French will honor Belgian neutrality, which France does."
If France marches in the Ardennes while respecting Belgian neutrality north of the Meuse, then France can still be respecting Belgian neutrality. For example, Japan marched through China to occupy Tsingtao while in a state of neutrality with China, and France marched through Greece towards Serbia via Salonika while in a state of neutrality towards Greece. Why would France in 1914 not be able to do in the vacant Ardennes what France actually did in 1915 in Greece? The Belgians themselves mobilized all their forces north of the Meuse, a powerful indicator that Belgium would not defend the Ardennes beyond diplomatic protest. The situation points to the possibility of France moving through the Ardennes while still maintaining neutrality with Belgium.

If the French failed to march through the Ardennes in their attack on the Germans, then Russia would eventually denounce the alliance with France and attempt a separate peace with Germany. I doubt the Russians would be subservient enough to remain at war with Germany with the entire Ardennes sitting open and half the French army vacationing north of Verdun.

So my answer to the OP's scenario is that soon into the Russians would start to warn the French to either broaden their front into Belgium, or Russia would make peace with Germany. The Serbians will have stopped the Austrian offensive, and the war in the east can end by negotiated settlement based on the successful Serbian defense, the Austrian defeat in Galicia, and the French betrayal of their Russian ally in Belgium. France will now be on its own, and Germany can come around on France straight through Belgium. The Russians will not lift a finger to help France.
Last edited by glenn239 on 23 Jun 2020 21:02, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by maltesefalcon » 23 Jun 2020 21:00

glenn239 wrote:
23 Jun 2020 20:24
maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 18:50
Again, I think you read the OP incorrectly. UK is not a belligerent in this ATL, so no British blockade.
The British established their blockade of the German fleet on 2 August 1914, while Britain was neutral, and, as a condition of their continued neutrality. That is to say, provided the Germans themselves respected the British line in the sand, continued British neutrality could be possible. The effect of all this would be the French running down the German merchant marine from behind a neutral Britain's blockade.
My bad. I should have taken my own advice and read the OP more carefully myself. To wit:

"There is no blockade of Germany."

That being said, your comment above on the blockade does have merit. However, IRL there was only a 2-day span between the blockade and the German invasion into Belgian soil. IRL the blockade was a veiled (but failed) threat to bluff the Germans into backing down.

However if the blockade had persisted without a German invasion, the blockade itself would likely have become the causus belli between Germany and the UK.
Last edited by maltesefalcon on 23 Jun 2020 21:20, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by glenn239 » 23 Jun 2020 21:18

maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 21:00
However if the blockade had persisted without a German invasion, the blockade itself would likely have become the causus belli between Germany and the UK>
Agreed. Meaning that two days before the Germans invaded Belgium, the French already had cause to believe with the British naval pledge that they would have a free hand in the Ardennes. After all, the British can hardly declare a blockade of Germany and bring their country to a state of near war to enforce it under threat of battle, then try to switch horses midstream simply because of a minor French incursion of sparsely populated Belgian territory, all in the defense of Russia.
Last edited by glenn239 on 23 Jun 2020 21:19, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Germans play WW 1 differently.

Post by T. A. Gardner » 23 Jun 2020 21:19

glenn239 wrote:
23 Jun 2020 20:24
maltesefalcon wrote:
23 Jun 2020 18:50
Again, I think you read the OP incorrectly. UK is not a belligerent in this ATL, so no British blockade.
The British established their blockade of the German fleet on 2 August 1914, while Britain was neutral, and, as a condition of their continued neutrality. That is to say, provided the Germans themselves respected the British line in the sand and kept their fleet in Germany, far from the Atlantic, the continued neutrality of Britain could be possible. The effect of all this would be the French running down the German merchant marine from behind a neutral Britain's blockade while the German fleet turned at anchor in port.
And, the Germans in turn could tell the British if that's how they're playing it, they better include the French too. But, this does nothing for the French if the shipping carrying goods to Germany are US or other foreign flagged vessels. That doesn't violate the British blockade of German warships nor would it allow the French to board and intern foreign vessels.
Also, given the short legs of the French fleet, and a need to keep a good chunk of it in the Med to counter the Austro-Hungarian fleet, it wouldn't leave them much to use against German merchant traffic in any case.

Of course, since the Germans are not threatening Belgium with a military build up on their border (some troops along it of course, but not massive numbers that were there historically), the British might not be so threatening.

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