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lordangers
16 Sep 08,, 16:34
This is a World War section and yet there dosen't seem to be much said about WWI. I personally find WWI intresting but what i dont get is why people seem to prefer to discuss WWII more? Im not saying there's anything wrong with finding WWII more Intresting and im not trying to change your minds lol. I would just like to know which war you find more intresting to know about and why you would prefer to learn more about that war.
Im not trying to get people to say that they were bad and all that because i know you know that but im just curious.
If you want i'll put it into a different perspective..... Your in a classroom and your teacher for some bizzare reason asks what would you like to do for Histroy today, you could only choose between WWI and WWII, which one would you choose and why?

Dreadnought
16 Sep 08,, 18:46
This is a World War section and yet there dosen't seem to be much said about WWI. I personally find WWI intresting but what i dont get is why people seem to prefer to discuss WWII more? Im not saying there's anything wrong with finding WWII more Intresting and im not trying to change your minds lol. I would just like to know which war you find more intresting to know about and why you would prefer to learn more about that war.
Im not trying to get people to say that they were bad and all that because i know you know that but im just curious.
If you want i'll put it into a different perspective..... Your in a classroom and your teacher for some bizzare reason asks what would you like to do for Histroy today, you could only choose between WWI and WWII, which one would you choose and why?

Lord, More then likely the reason it is so popular to discuss WWII is due to the fact that during WWI many technologies were on the horizion. By WWII, these technologies were more in play more then ever, Airpower, SeaPower, Infantry,The Atomic Bomb, Radar, The battles that were fought on two sides of the globe in all climates and the greater threat Hitler posed to Europe. Also keep in mind that a vast majority of posters would have had close family serving at that time so they can probably relate to it a bit closer then that of their grandparents. Also it ushered the industrial "big boom" and redrew countries boudaries. The men in power during these years also made it very interesting as well as military tactics and know how.

zraver
16 Sep 08,, 22:14
This is a World War section and yet there dosen't seem to be much said about WWI. I personally find WWI intresting but what i dont get is why people seem to prefer to discuss WWII more? Im not saying there's anything wrong with finding WWII more Intresting and im not trying to change your minds lol. I would just like to know which war you find more intresting to know about and why you would prefer to learn more about that war.
Im not trying to get people to say that they were bad and all that because i know you know that but im just curious.
If you want i'll put it into a different perspective..... Your in a classroom and your teacher for some bizzare reason asks what would you like to do for Histroy today, you could only choose between WWI and WWII, which one would you choose and why?

WW1 is a much smaller circle of experts, it was eclipsed by WW2. Plus most of us know a WWII vet so there is a touch of the personal relationship. Finally as Dreadnought said- technology.

Oh, and so much of WWI seems like- Chargie!!!!!!!!!!!1 Oh Sh&t!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Retreat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! rinse and repeat. No one really covers the march to the sea and then don't get interesting until Verdun and the British development of the tank.

clackers
17 Sep 08,, 02:30
Here are just some of the things that interest me about that conflict, lordangers ...


The extraordinary diplomatic dealings and sociological forces leading up to 1914 that brought about the end of monarchies and Europe's Belle Epoque, and afterwards, the rise of Fascism and Communism.

The manouevre warfare of the opening months of the war, culminating in the gigantic Battle of the Marne in the West and Tannenberg in the East ...

How each country's government had to raise money, keep their population 'onside' (Russia and later, Germany, did not do such a great job of this) and turn to mass production for an industrial war

How once trench warfare started in the West, commanders of both sides (many with a cavalry background) struggled to deal with attacking a 'defence in depth' at Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele, the Brusilov and Ludendorff Offensives ...

This is the age of the Dreadnought! Terrified admirals take to the seas in their expensive battleships and battle cruisers ... Sir John Jellicoe was called the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon ...

For technology nuts, the first widespread use of the machine gun, poison gas, aircraft of all kinds (from flying kites to monoplanes to four engined strategic bombers to Zeppelins!), tank, submarine and howitzer, and their effect on the battles of the day and the generals (who variously underestimated their capabilities or overrated them) ...

Lettow-Vorbeck's guerrila warfare in South-West Africa ...

The Middle East, complete with Lawrence of Arabia, cavalry charges and 'Bull' Allenby ...

The Hundred Days Offensive of the British Army in 1918 is right up there with Waterloo and Blenheim as their finest moment ...

The ridiculous bravery of Italian and Austrian troops in eleven battles along the Isonzo River during the war ...

Its effect on the individuals who became WW2 leaders, like Churchill, Marshall, Brooke, Patton, Montgomery and Petain

sappersgt
17 Sep 08,, 07:07
Do you think the US would not had declared war if Germany hadn't resumed unresricted submarine warfare in Feb 1917? Without the US in the war what happens in 1918?

Triple C
17 Sep 08,, 08:30
Its effect on the individuals who became WW2 leaders, like Churchill, Marshall, Brooke, Patton, Montgomery and Petain
[/LIST]

You are missing the Bavarian Corporal. ;)

dave lukins
17 Sep 08,, 11:09
Sir John Jellicoe was called the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon

D LLoyd George didn't think much of his either.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Admiral Jellicoe replaced Sir George Callaghan as Commander of the Grand British Fleet. Jellicoe directed operations at the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916. Jellicoe was criticised for his defensive attitude towards sea warfare and in late 1916 was replaced by Admiral Sir David Beatty. He became First Sea Lord until he was dismissed by David Lloyd George on 24th December 1917 over a disagreement about the introduction of convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic.

It amazed me how some Commanders ever reached such high Command.

clackers
17 Sep 08,, 12:27
Do you think the US would not had declared war if Germany hadn't resumed unresricted submarine warfare in Feb 1917?

Quite possibly, Sappersgt ... but the US was already not really neutral since it was providing war loans to the British, had an idealistic president in Wilson, and there was the matter of the Zimmerman telegram, too ...


Without the US in the war what happens in 1918?

A German victory was improbable after they were stopped at the Battle of the Marne back in 1914, Sappersgt.

Von Moltke, the German commander, thought so and resigned afterwards. His successor (von Falkenhayn) shared his belief after he too was beaten at Verdun, and the Germans shifted almost exclusively to the defensive on the Western Front while trying to win elsewhere.

Without US entry, I think the war most likely ends as it did historically (in an armistice) but on kinder terms to the Germans, and happening in 1919, rather than 1918 ....

Some of the French generals were really annoyed in fact that the Germans were allowed to get away in 1918 without being invaded and split up back into separate states.

"We must go right into the heart of Germany", one of them said in the autumn, or "the Germans will not admit they were beaten".

Perhaps he understood the consequences of what was later called the Stab-in-the-back legend:

Stab-in-the-back legend - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolchstosslegende)

clackers
17 Sep 08,, 12:50
You are missing the Bavarian Corporal. ;)

Of course, Triple C, the most famous example of all .... :)

Just some of the things he carried with him into the next war were:

1. A bravery award in the Iron Cross, along with an infantryman's belief that a unit's retreating could become a rout.

2. A war wound courtesy of the British, who he admired for their defensive fighting qualities, and ended almost an Anglophile.

3. A suspicion of the traditional upper class Prussian generals, with greater trust of commanders of more modest backgrounds, like Model, Rommel and Schorner.

clackers
17 Sep 08,, 12:57
... in late 1916 Jellicoe was replaced by Admiral Sir David Beatty. He became First Sea Lord until he was dismissed by David Lloyd George on 24th December 1917 over a disagreement about the introduction of convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic.

It amazed me how some Commanders ever reached such high Command.

The army was no better, Dave, led first by Sir John French then by Douglas Haig ... :confused:

xerxes
17 Sep 08,, 15:22
Can we say that during the First World War, the Royal Navy was less independent of the First Lord of the Admiralty - therefore more dependent on the actual Grand Fleet C-in-C and the First Sea Lord - than was the case in the Second World War? ... I remember in one such case Lord Fisher was really pissed off when the new Queen-Elizabeth battleship was threatened in a Turkish mine field. It hard to imagine, a First Sea Lord in WWII talking like that. But then again Fisher was special.

In the WWII it seems that that head of the home fleet, and the First Sea Lords are rarely mentioned, and are totally eclipsed by Sir Winston as First Lord in 39', and after that they are totally ignored.

lordangers
17 Sep 08,, 16:50
cool i see. i understand the veteran bit and where (mostly in the Western front) it was basicly charge and retreat with no one going anywhere just dying.

astralis
17 Sep 08,, 18:22
clackers,


A German victory was improbable after they were stopped at the Battle of the Marne back in 1914, Sappersgt.

Von Moltke, the German commander, thought so and resigned afterwards. His successor (von Falkenhayn) shared his belief after he too was beaten at Verdun, and the Germans shifted almost exclusively to the defensive on the Western Front while trying to win elsewhere.

Without US entry, I think the war most likely ends as it did historically (in an armistice) but on kinder terms to the Germans, and happening in 1919, rather than 1918 ....

i don't think so- by 1918 french armies were literally falling asleep at their posts, with their replacements dwindling.

my guess is that without US intervention, the germans were likely to seize paris. much would depend on the response of the french government. if they capitulate, the germans would reduce belgium to a vassal state, with the option of annexing flanders. they would have expanded their holdings around alsace-lorraine, and demanded a fortress-free zone all the way to paris. large sections of the french overseas empire would have turned german. they would have also demanded the creation of a central european trade zone, heavily influenced by the german economy.

if the french do not capitulate, the germans would have probably tried to close off northern france to prevent british landings, while the BEF would have tried to escape. still means french defeat, but the ensuing blood bath probably would have forced the germans to go easier in any negotiations with the brits.

cape_royds
18 Sep 08,, 01:20
1. The German 1918 offensives had bogged down even before large American forces arrived. They certainly weren't going to take Paris, because they couldn't even capture Amiens!

2. The French forces had rallied after their malaise of 1917, and were quite capable of undertaking independent offensive action, as for example at Soissons.

3. Neither the UK nor France faced anywhere near the sort of domestic political instability taking place in Germany in 1918.

4. The rest of the Central Powers were already collapsing by mid-1918.

So I agree with Clackers. Without direct US intervention, there would probably have still been an armistice by the autumn of 1919.

Whether the terms would have been gentler or harsher than those of November 1918 is a good question. On the one hand, the Germans would not have been as overwhelmed, and so could be expected to obtain better terms. On the other hand, it was the Americans who forced the Allies to moderate their demands in 1918.

I do think the terms would have been gentler, if for no other reason than the British and French did not want Germany to go Red. Their fear of Bolshevism was greater than their desire to hang the Kaiser.

zraver
18 Sep 08,, 01:39
clackers,



i don't think so- by 1918 french armies were literally falling asleep at their posts, with their replacements dwindling.

my guess is that without US intervention, the germans were likely to seize paris. much would depend on the response of the french government. if they capitulate, the germans would reduce belgium to a vassal state, with the option of annexing flanders. they would have expanded their holdings around alsace-lorraine, and demanded a fortress-free zone all the way to paris. large sections of the french overseas empire would have turned german. they would have also demanded the creation of a central european trade zone, heavily influenced by the german economy.

if the french do not capitulate, the germans would have probably tried to close off northern france to prevent british landings, while the BEF would have tried to escape. still means french defeat, but the ensuing blood bath probably would have forced the Germans to go easier in any negotiations with the brits.

The last of the German elites died in the spring offensive. The German army that remained was starving and using worn out equipment. The expected benefits of Russia's capitulation never really materialized, not even the food shortage was relieved and the garrisons soak up a large amount of men. The army was disillusioned, The airforce all but wiped out, the navy near revolt and the people's loyalty to the government was at an all time low.

Meanwhile on the allied side the loss of men was sever but technology was doing a better job of compensating. The massed tank attack at Cambrai heralded a new age. The allies had all the food and fuel they needed, Petain had whipped the French back into shape etc. 1919 would likely have seen the allies break into Germany and take or at least threaten the Rhineland and impose harsh terms.

clackers
18 Sep 08,, 03:17
In the WWII it seems that that head of the home fleet, and the First Sea Lords are rarely mentioned, and are totally eclipsed by Sir Winston as First Lord in 39', and after that they are totally ignored.

I'm not really sure what you're driving at, Xerxes ... the First Sea Lord is the Chief of Naval Staff, a bit like Ernest King for the United States in WW2 ....

In WW2, Sir Dudley Pound was succeeded by Sir Andrew Cunningham ... they were the heads of the Royal Navy and as members of the Combined Chiefs of Staff helped plan the whole Allied war effort.

clackers
18 Sep 08,, 03:44
cool i see. i understand the veteran bit and where (mostly in the Western front) it was basicly charge and retreat with no one going anywhere just dying.

Um, it was a bit more than that, Lordangers ...

It's important to understand that none of the generals from either side who launched the big trench warfare offensives of 1915-18 intended them to be battles of attrition. They turned out that way despite their planning.

Except for Haig, these leaders would typically get sacked by their government and someone else would come along and try to convince the politicians their new scheme would work where all the others had failed.

At Verdun, Falkenhayn's intention was to concentrate artillery from a distance on French infantry in fixed positions, 'bleeding them to death'.

At the Somme and Passchendaele, Haig thought the German lines could be subject to the greatest bombardments in history, then an advance on a front so broad that the attackers could only be fired at from one direction.

In the Nivelle Offensive, the French used their first tanks and a creeping barrage in an attempt to get a breakthrough within 48 hours.

At Cambrai, the British used shock tactics with their tanks to gain ground and the Germans used them with infantry to recapture it.

In the Russian Brusilov and German Ludendorff Offensives, infantry using infiltration tactics made impressive early gains.

Why none of these ultimately worked are the subject of stories both interesting and tragic!

zraver
18 Sep 08,, 03:56
At Verdun, Falkenhayn's intention was to concentrate artillery from a distance on French infantry in fixed positions, 'bleeding them to death'.


And then the Germans got fixated on taking ground.

clackers
18 Sep 08,, 05:12
Very much so, Zraver!

Under Petain, the French units were rotated in and out of the line so that their battle integrity could be retained despite the intense fighting.

Then the German infantry themselves became the target of massed French artillery, and trying to advance on a front of not much more than five miles wide, found themselves under a hail of enfilading fire. Generals Haig and Rawlinson resolved not to make the same mistake with the British attack at The Somme.

Petain's successor Nivelle was an artillery man who made his name training his troops to use a creeping barrage in retaking the lost Verdun forts at the end of 1916.

He then promised the French government the same tactics could win the war against the Germans in the north of the country in the spring of 1917, and sadly, they 'gave him the keys to the car'!

Bigfella
18 Sep 08,, 05:32
I am currently skimming a book called 'Phyrric Victory' about the French in WW1 (sorry, don't have author's name with me).

It also covers pre-war French reforms etc. What amazed me was the first detailed account I have read of the Franco-German clashes BEFORE the battle of the Marne.

I knew that the French had been massacred, but to actually read an account of it is remarkable. The French had a fair idea of what the Germans would try & where, though the Germans committed more troops to the North of the front than expected. Basically, the french did what they should have - try to attack the exposed flank of the German advance. Unfortunately their tactics & particularly use of field artillery was not up to it.

Virtually the entire French Army got chewed up & spat out. The Germans got slowed a bit, which was vital, but it is amazing just how much damage they did & how quickly.

All France's prewar plans were up in smoke in a week along with the cream of the professional army. That France was able to recover sufficiently to stop the Germans, hold them in place & force them back was one of the more remarkable feats of national will in the C20th.

clackers
18 Sep 08,, 06:05
I am currently skimming a book called 'Phyrric Victory' about the French in WW1 (sorry, don't have author's name with me).


I assume you've been reading about Joffre and his Plan XVII!

If that's the Doughty book, Bigfella, it's meant to be very good ... he was the chair of history at West Point ...

zraver
18 Sep 08,, 08:22
Bigfela, initially the French committed most of their strength to the attack into the Alsace-Lorraine and there elan' met maxim and lost. The battle of the frontiers a 2 week series of battles cost the French 10% of their strength. They did not go after the right wing's flank as it had to pass through Belgium. It seems the only ableminded French commander Lanzerac developed what the Germans were doing early on but Joffre could not be moved.

The French are very lucky the Crown Prince was a glory hound and the younger Moltke had not the elders spine and gave in to the call to beef up East Prussia or France would have fallen.

Triple C
18 Sep 08,, 09:13
The French are very lucky the Crown Prince was a glory hound and the younger Moltke had not the elders spine and gave in to the call to beef up East Prussia or France would have fallen.

Which is mighty funny because many social and intellectual historians thought the Germans lost World War I because Russia proved stronger than anticipated. I learned that from high school, consulted a proper military history, and found out what actually cost them the war; nerve.

zraver
18 Sep 08,, 09:30
Which is mighty funny because many social and intellectual historians thought the Germans lost World War I because Russia proved stronger than anticipated. I learned that from high school, consulted a proper military history, and found out what actually cost them the war; nerve.

Yup, German snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 1914. Although Russia did do the unexpected and launched her attack before fully mobilized to help France. This set off Moltke and so it is a major factor.

Bigfella
18 Sep 08,, 14:52
Bigfela, initially the French committed most of their strength to the attack into the Alsace-Lorraine and there elan' met maxim and lost. The battle of the frontiers a 2 week series of battles cost the French 10% of their strength. They did not go after the right wing's flank as it had to pass through Belgium. It seems the only ableminded French commander Lanzerac developed what the Germans were doing early on but Joffre could not be moved.

The French are very lucky the Crown Prince was a glory hound and the younger Moltke had not the elders spine and gave in to the call to beef up East Prussia or France would have fallen.


Zraver,

Unfortunately I don't have time to re-read the chapter right now. I did leave out the Alsace attacks, but my reading of the French was that they expected the Germans to attempt an attack to the north - avoiding a repeat of the successful 1870 attacks. Indeed, if I recall correctly part of the reason for attacking in Alsace was to cut off the German attack expected to the north.

I also thought the French attempted to hit the flank but pretty much bounced off. In fact, they seemed to bounce off pretty much everything. My reading of it was that they never did manage to shift enough troops north early enough to dent an attack that was MUCH larger & faster than expected.

Was the 10% figure dead or dead & wounded? Either way it is a massive hit to take in 2 weeks. As I recall most (if not all) of the armies mobilized in 1914 took serious damage.

astralis
18 Sep 08,, 15:31
i think the funny thing about all this is that churchill blamed the americans: he said that had the americans not intervened in 1918 everyone would have come to a nice agreement, probably status-quo antebellum. :biggrin: then there would have been no need for the nasty nazis to come up.

astralis
18 Sep 08,, 15:33
zraver,


Yup, German snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 1914. Although Russia did do the unexpected and launched her attack before fully mobilized to help France. This set off Moltke and so it is a major factor.

don't know where i read this, but i remember a book criticizing the original schlieffen plan- apparently there wasn't enough space for schlieffen's originally planned right-wing offensive anyways (another 250K men)? i wonder if that's been verified.

astralis
18 Sep 08,, 15:41
zraver,


The last of the German elites died in the spring offensive. The German army that remained was starving and using worn out equipment. The expected benefits of Russia's capitulation never really materialized, not even the food shortage was relieved and the garrisons soak up a large amount of men. The army was disillusioned, The airforce all but wiped out, the navy near revolt and the people's loyalty to the government was at an all time low.

Meanwhile on the allied side the loss of men was sever but technology was doing a better job of compensating. The massed tank attack at Cambrai heralded a new age. The allies had all the food and fuel they needed, Petain had whipped the French back into shape etc. 1919 would likely have seen the allies break into Germany and take or at least threaten the Rhineland and impose harsh terms.

think it depends on political will at this point. if the germans were desperate they had another million men in garrisons on the eastern front. not sure if the french would have stayed in the war if it wasn't for the fact that they knew the americans would be coming- i believe the psychological factors of having US marine divisions on the ground and fighting off the germans outweighed their actual military contribution. this worked the other way as well, the germans were so impressed by US marine shooting that they often thought they were fighting more men than they really were.

lordangers
18 Sep 08,, 16:22
cool thnx clacker. i just thought they didnt use as much tanks as they were new and it said in a few books i read that the tanks didnt break up the trench warfar in ww1 entriely by themselves at the end. but yeah your right it wasnt just chrage get mowed down, turn back, there was a lot of non-trench activity in Africa i believe. well not to the same extent of the western front of coarse. :biggrin:

zraver
18 Sep 08,, 23:08
zraver,



think it depends on political will at this point. if the germans were desperate they had another million men in garrisons on the eastern front. not sure if the french would have stayed in the war if it wasn't for the fact that they knew the americans would be coming- i believe the psychological factors of having US marine divisions on the ground and fighting off the germans outweighed their actual military contribution. this worked the other way as well, the germans were so impressed by US marine shooting that they often thought they were fighting more men than they really were.

It was more than just marksmanship, alot of it was the American big divisions. Some of our divisional formations were as big as a typical European corps.

Also if Germany pulls the garrisons out of the Ukraine she loses what little food that region did provide and her food situation only gets worse. IIRC Germany's Achilles Heel of the war was nitrates. They invented nitrate fertilizer and this allowed the population to expand, but when war came and all the nitrate production was diverted to armaments the land could not support the population.

cape_royds
19 Sep 08,, 00:20
The French lost heavily at the Frontiers, but their armies kept their cohesion, retreated in good order, and were shortly able to resume the attack.

1914 was not 1940. For that matter, even the mutinies in 1917 took place among divisions in reserve, not in the line.

Several things hit German agriculture:

1. Loss of fertilizers, as zraver wrote. The Germans invented a synthetic process for ammonia production, but while there was ample production for explosives, there was a shortage for farming.

2. Loss of draught animals. Horses were main traction source for both armies and farms, so when many horses were requistioned, the farmers lost.

3. Loss of farm labour. Result of attrition on two fronts.

Result: shortfalls in agricultural production, rapid inflation of urban food prices, and unrest in the labour force.

All these trends were intensified by the Hindenburg Programme, which while successful in meeting Germany's immediate armament needs, left the country in an economic and political shambles by 1918.

Paradoxically, because Britain faced such an acute shipping shortage, and because France lost much productive farmland early in the war, both those countries ended up doing a somewhat better job than Germany of organizing wartime food distribution.

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 05:23
Bigfela, initially the French committed most of their strength to the attack into the Alsace-Lorraine and there elan' met maxim and lost. The battle of the frontiers a 2 week series of battles cost the French 10% of their strength. They did not go after the right wing's flank as it had to pass through Belgium. .

The intention was to go after the right flank, because given the two front situation Germany faced, Joffre couldn't see how there could be substantial forces to the north, to the south, as well as in the Ardennes centre where he was driving.

What he didn't know was that there was only a veneer of troops facing the Russians, so he marched into the full Fourth and Fifth armies.



The French are very lucky the Crown Prince was a glory hound and the younger Moltke had not the elders spine and gave in to the call to beef up East Prussia or France would have fallen.

Maybe. As Astralis hints in a later post, the Schlieffen Plan was a hopeful piece of paper. John Keegan analyzes it in his The First World War.

It assumed the British stayed out of the war or didn't affect the timeline.

It couldn't decide whether the right hook passed to the west of Paris or only to the east.

It called for eight extra corps to be raised and used in the right wing, which the railroad infrastructure to the German frontier could carry, but the roads through Belgium were never going to support.

It assumed great communication and understanding between the generals. But Bulow and von Kluck, the right-flank army commanders, treated each other as rivals, and Moltke was located too far behind the front to exert any leadership over either.

It assumed a repeat of the panic of 1870-71, but Joffre slept well and was an almost unreal calming influence on those around him (unfortunately he was also unperturbed when things went wrong during his pointless later offensives!), while it was Moltke who was the worried pessimist, convinced the plan he had inherited was flawed. He was happy to accept a breakthrough at any point, rather than achieve a uniform advance all along the front.

Instead of armies being surrounded at Sedan and Verdun (Emperor Napoleon III had been trapped with them in 1871), in 1914 they held their lines and the rail system was able to transfer troops back to the Paris theatre (forget the legendary taxicab army, this westward movement was done by thirty trains per day) so that the German right wing ended up facing 41 instead of 17 Allied divisions.

The Schlieffen Plan did not allow for technology influencing matters, but fifty radio messages were intercepted by the French, who also captured a set of battle plans from a crashed car (this is right up there with Lee's lost orders before Antietam), and as a result planes were sent up and their reconnaisance confirmed a widening gap between Bulow and von Kluck that Joffre drove his Sixth Army and the BEF into.

A fascinating, knife's edge battle, with so many factors affecting the outcome ... I hope to one day buy Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory ... decades later, it's meant to still be the best version of these events in English ...

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 10:07
i think the funny thing about all this is that churchill blamed the americans: he said that had the americans not intervened in 1918 everyone would have come to a nice agreement, probably status-quo antebellum. :biggrin: then there would have been no need for the nasty nazis to come up.

Did he really say that, Astralis?

Hmmm ... ironic, because if the British had not intervened in 1914 the war may have been over relatively quickly and the casualties of 1915-18 and 1939-45 might have been avoided altogether.

It was a surprise to the Germans that their British cousins bothered to go to war over what was essentially a continental issue. They were certainly not the expansion obsessed Nazis ... to Wilson in 1916 they said they would have been happy to stop the war if they got to keep some of the northern slice of France they had already taken (it had coal) and be allowed to create a sort of early EU out of Belgium and Holland.

If they had won the Battle of the Marne in 1914, they pretty much only wanted the same territory, but repeating their trick from 1871 of demanding crippling financial reparations from France ... much nastier than what the Allies actually imposed on them in 1918 at Versailles.

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 10:27
think it depends on political will at this point. if the germans were desperate they had another million men in garrisons on the eastern front. not sure if the french would have stayed in the war if it wasn't for the fact that they knew the americans would be coming

By 1917, the governments of Britain and France had gotten through earlier agonies, were now stable, and the civilian populations were behind Lloyd George and Clemenceau (whose 'war to the end' speeches were an influence on Churchill's later rhetoric).

This compared with Germany, where a defacto dictatorship of Ludendorff and Hindenburg fell out of touch with other officers, politicians, the Kaiser and the people.

Parihaka
19 Sep 08,, 10:34
Weren't the French having problems with mutinies 1917ish?

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 10:35
cool thnx clacker. i just thought they didnt use as much tanks as they were new and it said in a few books i read that the tanks didnt break up the trench warfar in ww1 entriely by themselves at the end.

They didn't, Lordangers ... they were part of combined ops.

A bit like the island landings in the Pacific Theatre of WW2, while advancing infantry moved around fixed positions, the tanks engaged them - they were actually better off in some cases not moving forward into the trench line but up and down parallel to it, firing away.

The early tanks were underpowered, unreliable, and initially used piecemeal at The Somme. The Germans were discouraged by what they saw and never really got into building their own (only 20, I think!)

Oscar
19 Sep 08,, 10:55
Germany at the beginning of 1918 was bordering implosion. No way the Germans could have won the war AFTER 1917. Their spring offensive was more an act of despair of Ludendorf and hindenburg than an attempt to win back the initiative. More like the Ardennes in 1944.

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 11:15
Weren't the French having problems with mutinies 1917ish?

These are really misunderstood, Pari ... they happened after the Nivelle Offensive, where the smooth talking artillery man proved to his troops to be as much a butcher as the previous guys in the job. As HP Wilmott summarized in World War I:


Signs of unrest were normally short-lived and focused upon two matters - the seemingly pointless offensives and the often appalling conditions in which the soldiers were expected to live, whether in or out of the line. Contrary to the impression conveyed by the word 'mutiny', only on one occasion was there a refusal to take part in combat. In fact, 44 divisions were wholly unaffected, and of the 68 that were affected, 17 had just single incidents. Amongst the remainder, there was a total of 250 incidents in 152 regiments, mostly infantry. Not one officer was murdered and there was only a single incident of a general being manhandled. In the vast majority of cases, French units refused to involve themselves in costly, hopeless offensives but declared a willingness to man the line ...

... the crisis had passed by mid-June after it became clear that [new commander and victor of Verdun] Petain also intended not just to punish [although military justice could be draconian, there were only 27 executions] but to change tactics and improve conditions. From now on there would be limited attacks in which the infantry operated in small groups rather than en masse, and there would be greater emphasis on defence in depth, with the frontline trenches only thinly held and troops in the frontline being relieved by reserves on a more regular basis. Troops would have seven days' leave every four months, and more trains would be run to take them on leave. Rest areas would be improved through the provision of more beds, and food would be much improved through the regular delivery of fresh vegetables and the establishment of regimental cooperatives offering extra, cheap provisions. There would not, however, be any increase in pay.

Petain personally visited 90 divisions to explain these improvements. He also brought a temporary halt to all offensives. He would not feel ready to launch another until August, when an attack at Verdun would drive the Germans back to the positions they had occupied before their advance in February 1916" pp 212-213

Parihaka
19 Sep 08,, 11:29
These are really misunderstood, Pari ... they happened after the Nivelle Offensive, where the smooth talking artillery man proved to his troops to be as much a butcher as the previous guys in the job. As HP Wilmott summarized in World War I:


Signs of unrest were normally short-lived and focused upon two matters - the seemingly pointless offensives and the often appalling conditions in which the soldiers were expected to live, whether in or out of the line. Contrary to the impression conveyed by the word 'mutiny', only on one occasion was there a refusal to take part in combat. In fact, 44 divisions were wholly unaffected, and of the 68 that were affected, 17 had just single incidents. Amongst the remainder, there was a total of 250 incidents in 152 regiments, mostly infantry. Not one officer was murdered and there was only a single incident of a general being manhandled. In the vast majority of cases, French units refused to involve themselves in costly, hopeless offensives but declared a willingness to man the line ...

... the crisis had passed by mid-June after it became clear that [new commander] Petain also intended not just to punish [although military justice could be draconian, there were only 27 executions] but to change tactics and improve conditions. From now on there would be limited attacks in which the infantry operated in small groups rather than en masse, and there would be greater emphasis on defence in depth, with the frontline trenches only thinly held and troops in the frontline being relieved by reserves on a more regular basis. Troops would have seven days' leave every four months, and more trains would be run to take them on leave. Rest areas would be improved through the provision of more beds, and food would be much improved through the regular delivery of fresh vegetables and the establishment of regimental cooperatives offering extra, cheap provisions. There would not, however, be any increase in pay.

Petain personally visited 90 divisions to explain these improvements. He also brought a temporary halt to all offensives. He would not feel ready to launch another until August, when an attack at Verdun would drive the Germans back to the positions they had occupied before their advance in February 1916" pp 212-213

Cool, thanks Clackers.:)

clackers
19 Sep 08,, 11:41
It was more than just marksmanship, alot of it was the American big divisions. Some of our divisional formations were as big as a typical European corps.

Yes, up to 28,000 in a single division, but mainly because there was too great a shortage of proven commanders, trained staff officers and equipment (especially artillery) to make 'normal' size ones.

The British and French provided hardware such as aircraft, the 75mm field gun and Renault light tanks (Patton presumably started his career in these).

'Marksmanship' was a peculiar Pershing obsession, as rifles were not important in mass trench warfare. Pershing insisted on operating independently of his allies, so the Doughboys got very little benefit from their Allies' experiences. Hew Strachan discusses Pershing's beliefs:


He believed that mobile warfare was the key to victory, that battle should be fought in the open, and that the key to success was aimed rifle-fire. He rejected the views of those that urged that machinery could substitute for manpower. The American division consisted of 28,000 men, twice the size of its allies, which were being restructured as smaller units with fewer men but greater firepower. It was short of lorries [trucks] and guns, and it proved cumbersome in manoeuvre and poor in its ability to coordinate infantry and artillery. The First World War, p304

Of course, this all came out in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, as AJP Taylor wrote in The First World War:


Pershing followed the old method of attacking the strong points instead of by-passing them. The troops often waited for the mist to clear instead of welcoming it. As a result, they suffered over 100,000 casualties; discipline often broke down; in over a week's fighting they advanced less than eight miles pp233-34

In less than two months, the US casualties were similar to the three months of fighting in Normandy in 1944, but I'm not sure its battleground memorials are as well attended by American tourists.

But even to the ridiculously optimistic Ludendorff and Hindenburg, the writing was on the wall. Peace had to be sought on the best terms possible.

No matter how painfully slow it was to get the AEF together (the Spring Offensives started about a year after the US joined the war but there were only 85,000 Americans in France at the time), it was still done faster throughout 1917-18 than the British had achieved with their BEF in 1914-16. And it would be two million strong in 1919.

Albany Rifles
19 Sep 08,, 13:56
zraver,



think it depends on political will at this point. if the germans were desperate they had another million men in garrisons on the eastern front. not sure if the french would have stayed in the war if it wasn't for the fact that they knew the americans would be coming- i believe the psychological factors of having US marine divisions on the ground and fighting off the germans outweighed their actual military contribution. this worked the other way as well, the germans were so impressed by US marine shooting that they often thought they were fighting more men than they really were.


Small point, but

There were no US Marine divisions in WW 1...there was a brigade of Marines in 2d Infantry Infantry Division (4th Infantry Brigade composed of the 5th & 6th Marines). John Lejeune was the only Marine officer to command a US Army division in combat. Division sized elements fo Marines really didn't come into being until WW 2.

Oh, and the Doughboys of the Big Red One and the Marne Division could shoot pretty well!

Just wanted to bring a little balance to the USMC PR machine!:))

astralis
19 Sep 08,, 15:40
clackers,


By 1917, the governments of Britain and France had gotten through earlier agonies, were now stable, and the civilian populations were behind Lloyd George and Clemenceau (whose 'war to the end' speeches were an influence on Churchill's later rhetoric).


without US help in the battle of the atlantic, food concerns might have weakened this domestic support in the UK. the UK was quite frightened by the prospect of germany choking its food lines.

combined with french desperation at the prospect of a german victory, things could have unraveled fast. haig, after all, issued his "backs to the wall" order.

zraver
19 Sep 08,, 16:49
The intention was to go after the right flank, because given the two front situation Germany faced, Joffre couldn't see how there could be substantial forces to the north, to the south, as well as in the Ardennes centre where he was driving.

What he didn't know was that there was only a veneer of troops facing the Russians, so he marched into the full Fourth and Fifth armies.

IIRC the German habit of assigning active and reserve armies together caused some confusion as well.





Maybe. As Astralis hints in a later post, the Schlieffen Plan was a hopeful piece of paper. John Keegan analyzes it in his The First World War.

It assumed the British stayed out of the war or didn't affect the timeline.

It couldn't decide whether the right hook passed to the west of Paris or only to the east.

It called for eight extra corps to be raised and used in the right wing, which the railroad infrastructure to the German frontier could carry, but the roads through Belgium were never going to support.

It assumed great communication and understanding between the generals. But Bulow and von Kluck, the right-flank army commanders, treated each other as rivals, and Moltke was located too far behind the front to exert any leadership over either.

It assumed a repeat of the panic of 1870-71, but Joffre slept well and was an almost unreal calming influence on those around him (unfortunately he was also unperturbed when things went wrong during his pointless later offensives!), while it was Moltke who was the worried pessimist, convinced the plan he had inherited was flawed. He was happy to accept a breakthrough at any point, rather than achieve a uniform advance all along the front.

Instead of armies being surrounded at Sedan and Verdun (Emperor Napoleon III had been trapped with them in 1871), in 1914 they held their lines and the rail system was able to transfer troops back to the Paris theatre (forget the legendary taxicab army, this westward movement was done by thirty trains per day) so that the German right wing ended up facing 41 instead of 17 Allied divisions.

The Schlieffen Plan did not allow for technology influencing matters, but fifty radio messages were intercepted by the French, who also captured a set of battle plans from a crashed car (this is right up there with Lee's lost orders before Antietam), and as a result planes were sent up and their reconnaisance confirmed a widening gap between Bulow and von Kluck that Joffre drove his Sixth Army and the BEF into.

A fascinating, knife's edge battle, with so many factors affecting the outcome ... I hope to one day buy Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory ... decades later, it's meant to still be the best version of these events in English ...

Even with those flaws, it almost worked, given Germany's impossible strategic position when France and Russia allied it was as a good a plan as could be made at the time. With hindsight we might say they should have gone of the defensive in the west and knocked out the Russians first but that's arm chair generaling. Scheiflen was still working off the post Napoleonic memory of Russia as the gendarme of Europe and the wide held belief that despite 1870 the French were the superior army if not vs Germany then in the threat it represented to Germany.

cape_royds
19 Sep 08,, 20:48
Hmmm ... ironic, because if the British had not intervened in 1914 the war may have been over relatively quickly and the casualties of 1915-18 and 1939-45 might have been avoided altogether.

It was a surprise to the Germans that their British cousins bothered to go to war over what was essentially a continental issue.


Britain intervened to preserve the balance of power, as they always had done in the past.

If the Germans had been allowed to dominate the Low Countries and Northern France, several things would have happened:

1. No other power on the European continent would have been able to place a check on any future German ambitions. And ambitions they certainly had: The Third Reich inherited the Mitteleuropa concept from the Second Reich.

2. Germany's naval construction capacity, and available naval basing facilities, would have eventually posed a significant risk to British seapower in home waters.

3. The large German-controlled industrial base in Western Europe would have needed to expand its export markets in even closer competition with Britain than was already the case.


So intervention by Britain was simply inevitable.

The main mistake by the British gov't lay in their not making their atittude clearer from the outset. An open alliance with France and Russia may have deterred Germany from seeking to alter the continental status quo. Even then, however, I think the Germans thought they could win a quick war and then present the world with the fait accompli.

However, the Asquith gov't just wasn't strong or stable enough to make such a bold foreign policy move. They had the Irish Home Rule crisis on their hands, besides just having fought an epic constitutional battle with the House of Lords over budget control. Britain was politically paralyzed in 1914, and so they were hard pressed to act vigorously until war had already broken out.

astralis
19 Sep 08,, 20:59
zraver,


With hindsight we might say they should have gone of the defensive in the west and knocked out the Russians first but that's arm chair generaling. Scheiflen was still working off the post Napoleonic memory of Russia as the gendarme of Europe and the wide held belief that despite 1870 the French were the superior army if not vs Germany then in the threat it represented to Germany.

i think this partially arose from the german staff not understanding that military technology had given primacy to the defense during this time. they based their experience off the russo-japanese war, where the japanese (barely) prevailed despite taking horrendous losses at the hands of russian machine guns. they were also thinking of the last go around in 1871.

they probably would have done better by staying on the defensive in the west AND in the east. if france tries advancing against german defenses the french army gets massacred a la battle of the frontier. if they violate belgium neutrality, the UK will probably stay out of the war.

russia's ineptly led offensives could (and were) stopped by the germans. wait until both france and russia are bled dry, similar to germany's 1916 verdun strategy, and then smack each of them in turn.

of course that's in a perfect world- the germans were always nervous at the prospect of russia overrunning east prussia, and prevalent talk about "the supremacy of the offensive" and "martial spirit" also infected the germans, although to a lesser degree than the french.

Bigfella
20 Sep 08,, 01:03
A fascinating, knife's edge battle, with so many factors affecting the outcome ... I hope to one day buy Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory ... decades later, it's meant to still be the best version of these events in English ...

Or you could borrow a copy.:biggrin:

Actually, Horne's account of the early part of the war is not very detailed, though beautifully written. The book mainly focusses on Verdun.

The account of the 'Battle of the Frontiers' in Phyrric Victory is much more detailed.

clackers
20 Sep 08,, 08:29
without US help in the battle of the atlantic, food concerns might have weakened this domestic support in the UK. the UK was quite frightened by the prospect of germany choking its food lines.

I think it's dangerous to believe the promises of the Armed Services, Astralis ... choosing just one branch for an example, in WW2 air force commanders in GB, US, and Germany all believed they could win the war without needing the army or the navy ... Chennault famously thought his twelve Flying Fortresses in China could force Japan to surrender.

In WWI, Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff did claim that his submarines could cause Britain to surrender within five months. He also assured the Kaiser that if America entered the war, not one soldier would be able to set foot on the Continent.

No wonder Georges Clemenceau once remarked that "War is too serious a matter to be left to the generals".

You'll be surprised to find that during Germany's attempt to blockade Britain, eating conditions actually improved for the majority of the population. This is Hew Strachan from The First World War:


Holtzendorff had miscalculated. He had assumed that neutral tonnage would be frightened off the seas. It was not. Freight rates and London's control of the insurance market saw to that. Instead, less was imported into border neutrals for re-export to the Central Powers. In this respect the Germans shot themselves in the foot: the U-boat campaign tightened the allied blockade. Moreover, Britain's own food supplies were more elastic than Holtzendorff had imagined. Britain imported about 64 percent of its food in 1914, but it had spare pasture which it could bring into cultivation. Output was promoted, rather than retarded, especially since rationing, when it was eventually introduced, was exercised at the point of sale, not at the point of production. Wheat yields rose 40 percent between 1914 and 1918, and those of most other foodstuffs were at least constant. Imports emphasized commodities like grain which were more efficient than livestock in the ratio of weight to calorific value. Mortality rates among the working class declined, as diets became healthier and rationing guaranteed a minimum subsistence for the underprivileged. By the time Britain moved to full-scale rationing, in 1918, the worst of the danger to its trade was over, and the benefits were largely psychological. With a minimal black market, state controls on food supply promoted social solidarity - rather than, as in Germany, undermining it. 'Look well at the loaf on your breakfast table and treat it as if it were gold,' declared Kennedy Jones, director-general of food economy, in a speech in Edinburgh in May 1917, 'because the British loaf is going to beat the German' p284

With hyperbole like that, Kennedy Jones' talents were wasted - he should have been an air force commander! ;)

clackers
20 Sep 08,, 08:59
combined with french desperation at the prospect of a german victory, things could have unraveled fast. haig, after all, issued his "backs to the wall" order.

Not with Clemenceau in charge. Amongst politicians, only Briand and Caillaux may have sought peace, but they didn't have widespread support, and in an appalling suspension of democracy, Clemenceau even had Caillaux arrested in 1918.

By 1917 the Germans had long given up attacking on the Western Front.

Your Haig quote is actually from the final year of the war, during the act-of-desperation Spring Offensive. Unforgivably, he was caught napping, and panicked. Somehow, he again kept his job. At the same time, Petain demonstrated the other side of his character - gloomy defeatist (it was to come out again as an old man in 1940).

Ferdinand Foch was put in charge of both of them as Allied Generalissimo, and ran the distribution of reserves through the series of battles, fed deliberately into the paths of the ever-changing German axes of attack. The Germans suffered 700,000 unaffordable casualties - including their specially trained stormtroopers.

At this point the Allies weren't aware that as a result the Germans had lost not only their ability to attack on the Western Front, but also to defend their own lines as they had done successfully again and again since 1914. The Hindenburg Line was to crumble to what essentially were only probing British counterattacks later in the year.

clackers
20 Sep 08,, 09:11
Even with those flaws, it almost worked

Yes, Zraver, I don't know about you but I love those battles where far from having preordained outcomes, there were so many factors at play they became anyone's ballgame! :)

clackers
20 Sep 08,, 12:34
Britain intervened to preserve the balance of power, as they always had done in the past..

Exactly who thought this, CR? I think you'll find it was only the view of a minority of British diplomats, generals and politicians. And even the most anti-German of them, Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, told the French ambassador as late as August 1st there was no assurance of British support.

Robert Cowley has written in What If?:


"As the continental storm gathered in the last week of July 1914, and the major powers edged towards mobilization, the likelihood that Great Britain would go to war was slight. France, indeed, was pressuring it to make a commitment against the Central Powers. But since the defeat of Napoleon, Britain had deliberately kept itself aloof from continental involvements and this crisis seemed no different. European entanglements would only diminish Britain's worldwide influence, power and economic predominance." p265

The tensions about naval rivalry faded from 1912 onwards, as Germany struggled to fund the Schlieffen Plan it couldn't afford to also stay in the race to build battleships. David Lloyd George - at that point the Chancellor of the Exchequer - had told Parliament that relations were now so good he could forsee 'substantial economy in naval expenditures'.

There was no existing formal alliance with either France or Russia, because it was known that the House of Commons would not have ratified it.

Three quarters of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith's Liberal party and about the same proportion of his cabinet wanted to stay out of any conflict. That they didn't resign when Belgium was invaded was due to a fear that the opposition Conservatives would take their places, and an understanding that British ground troops might not even be needed (there were only seven divisions).

In his office the afternoon after he declared war in Parliament, Asquith and his wife were unable to speak for tears after he told her "It's all up."

As you rightly say, CR, the ambiguity of the British government's communications with the other nations before the war has a lot to answer for, and a lot of that blame has to go to Edward Grey. Obsessed by 'balance of power' issues, he refused to give concrete assurances to any of Germany, France or Russia, who were left to guess what Britain might actually do.

clackers
20 Sep 08,, 13:14
zraver,



i think this partially arose from the german staff not understanding that military technology had given primacy to the defense during this time. they based their experience off the russo-japanese war, where the japanese (barely) prevailed despite taking horrendous losses at the hands of russian machine guns. they were also thinking of the last go around in 1871.

they probably would have done better by staying on the defensive in the west AND in the east. if france tries advancing against german defenses the french army gets massacred a la battle of the frontier. if they violate belgium neutrality, the UK will probably stay out of the war.

russia's ineptly led offensives could (and were) stopped by the germans. wait until both france and russia are bled dry, similar to germany's 1916 verdun strategy, and then smack each of them in turn.

of course that's in a perfect world- the germans were always nervous at the prospect of russia overrunning east prussia, and prevalent talk about "the supremacy of the offensive" and "martial spirit" also infected the germans, although to a lesser degree than the french.

Yes, Zraver and Astralis, knowing what we know now, the Germans could have let France crash and burn in Lorraine, kept Britain out of the war, and turned East and delivered a smashing.

But of course, planning was built around the fact that the Russians with their backward railway system were going to be the last to mobilize, and Germany had always thought the more dangerous France would seek revenge for 1871 whenever opportunity knocked (which was true).

After 1910 France was building, and Russia (recovering after her hiding against the Japanese) was also building, at rates which meant that at some stage, they could not be beaten. The Germans viewed the upcoming war as a preemptive, defensive one.

Following the Austrian Archduke's assassination, even the German chancellor became convinced the local Balkan crisis should be turned into a general war when the ever-nervous von Moltke told him:

"The military situation is becoming from day to day more unfavourable for us and can, if our prospective opponents prepare themselves further unmolested, lead to fateful consequences for us ... We shall never again strike as well as we do now, with France's and Russia's expansion of their armies incomplete"

In other words, not only were the German public told the war was a defensive one (which even the majority Socialist party accepted), the leaders actually believed their own rhetoric.

cape_royds
21 Sep 08,, 04:36
Exactly who thought this, CR? I think you'll find it was only the view of a minority of British diplomats, generals and politicians. And even the most anti-German of them, Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, told the French ambassador as late as August 1st there was no assurance of British support.

In that particular context, Grey was trying to make sure that the French or Russians didn't exploit a promise of British support to overbid their own hand.

Britain's newly-established general staff had already made commitments, in the event of war, to send an expeditionary force to the French left flank.

The Admiralty had already committed to the French that the Royal Navy would protect the Channel from any German approach, to leave the French free to concentrate their heavy units in the western Mediterranean. Remember that in 1914 Italy, with a significant fleet, was still ranged among the Central Powers; if Italy kept to its alliance, that would also mean the new Austrian dreadnoughts would be able to operate outside the Adriatic. Even if those fleets were not of the same quality as the British or French, ten dreadnoughts are still ten dreadnoughts--a potential serious fleet in being. So the Admiralty's logic, in agreeing upon a division of labour with the French Navy, is easy enough to understand.

At the strategic level, the Committee of Imperial Defense already took for granted an Anglo-French alliance. The Committee was somewhat bipartisan, with Balfour being a member.

Two highly placed, and widely published, contemporary sources are Churchill's World Crisis and Hankey's Supreme Command. Churchill was at the time First Lord of the Admiralty, and made the famous decision to use a naval exercise as a pretext for mobilizing the fleet in home waters (also neatly fulfilling their understanding with the French). Hankey, the archetypical mandarin, was the Secretary (and co-founder) of the Committee of Imperial Defense, who often set the agenda for top-level British defense policy.

That such enormous decisions had quietly taken place outside the proper constitutional framework, and that only a handful of Cabinet ministers were informed until the last moment, was nothing more than the British version of the same story that was being told in several other European capital cities that summer.



David Lloyd George - at that point the Chancellor of the Exchequer - had told Parliament that relations were now so good he could forsee 'substantial economy in naval expenditures'.

L-G was at the time considered one of the anti-militarists in the Cabinet. But remember that the same L-G had, in 1911, made a famous public speech threatening Germany with a British intervention on the continent, even admitting (presciently, as it turned out) that Britain might be willing to sacrifice its leading world position in the process.

Let's just say that no one in the British Cabinet, possibly excepting Churchill, was keen on war. But even the most dovish ministers were alive to the issue of the balance of power on the continent.


As you rightly say, CR, the ambiguity of the British government's communications with the other nations before the war has a lot to answer for, and a lot of that blame has to go to Edward Grey. Obsessed by 'balance of power' issues, he refused to give concrete assurances to any of Germany, France or Russia, who were left to guess what Britain might actually do.

In fairness to Grey, Britain was politically unstable in the years immediately preceding the Great War. The main reason for reluctance to commit the ground forces was the Irish situation--and some real doubts of the political reliability of certain elements in the officer corps.

As it actually happened, the War unified the English nation and army, and postponed the Irish question. The most militant Ulster loyalists would get conveniently decimated on the Somme. The Lords rapidly faded in power and influence under wartime conditions. But there was no way to predict any of these domestic political developments in 1914.

Aside: under conditions of nuclear assured-destruction, such ambiguity as Grey's can have an added deterrent effect--e.g. "flexible response." But under conditions of conventional deterrence as in 1914, credibility is more readily put to the test, and an ambiguous policy can offer an apparent opening to the potential aggressor (e.g. Glaspie's talks with Saddam in 1990).

cape_royds
21 Sep 08,, 04:55
But of course, planning was built around the fact that the Russians with their backward railway system were going to be the last to mobilize, and Germany had always thought the more dangerous France would seek revenge for 1871 whenever opportunity knocked (which was true).

After 1910 France was building, and Russia (recovering after her hiding against the Japanese) was also building, at rates which meant that at some stage, they could not be beaten. The Germans viewed the upcoming war as a preemptive, defensive one.

...

"The military situation is becoming from day to day more unfavourable for us and can, if our prospective opponents prepare themselves further unmolested, lead to fateful consequences for us ... We shall never again strike as well as we do now, with France's and Russia's expansion of their armies incomplete"

In other words, not only were the German public told the war was a defensive one (which even the majority Socialist party accepted), the leaders actually believed their own rhetoric.

While the war was preventive from a German point-of-view, the Germans were still pursuing hegemonic goals of their own in Central and Eastern Europe. The Germans just knew that if they were ever to fulfill their hopes of becoming a world-scale power on par with the American or British empires, they would have to move fast before Russia managed to modernize. Their "window" was closing.

Because a modernized Russia would become to Germany, what Germany had become to France: "everything you are, but bigger."

An interesting analogy is Japan's effort to prevent China from emerging as a modern unified state. In both cases, the smaller country developed faster, and aggressively tried to forestall the rise of their larger neighbour.

In both cases, they managed to maul, retard, and pervert their opponents' economic and political development. In both cases, the smaller aggressors failed to become hegemonic powers themselves. In both cases, their aggression helped to bring about the situation they most feared, i.e. a large hostile continental neighbour. In both cases, they ended up as satellites of a distant maritime empire which had profited from the bloody divisions in Eurasia--the geopolitical "world heartland."

cyppok
21 Sep 08,, 06:14
This was a very cool read. If Russia didn't entangle in WW1 or losses were lower the civil war and the communism thing could have been averted. Thats basically it.

zraver
21 Sep 08,, 07:40
This was a very cool read. If Russia didn't entangle in WW1 or losses were lower the civil war and the communism thing could have been averted. Thats basically it.

Doubtful, only delayed, as Russia modernized it brought about increasing pressures in two areas. 1- the rise of an intelligentsia outside of the first through third estates 2- the rise of nationalism among non-slavs. You add these two pressures to Czar Nicholas's namby-pamby approach to critical thinking and desire for an external war/victory to mask problems at home and the result is an imperial implosion. And thats without external pressure.

If Russia had avoided engagement in WW1 France would have fallen, Serbia would have been crushed, western Europe would have been over run and in the ruins of Victorian/Edwardian Europe you'd have found the battered remnants of Russian pride as she cowered like a dog racked by internal dissent and bullied by the Austro-Hungarian German super alliance free to turn all its power east if Russia so much as sneezed without permission.

Once the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister decided on war, none of the great powers could stay out of it.

Bigfella
21 Sep 08,, 09:34
This was a very cool read. If Russia didn't entangle in WW1 or losses were lower the civil war and the communism thing could have been averted. Thats basically it.

Perhaps, but perhaps not. By 1914 the timid moves toward reform sparked by the near-death experience of 1905 had already stalled. Reformers were discouraged & the potential constituency for an appeal to violent change continued to grow.

Continuing indistruialization would simply have fuelled this - placing a growing danger in the form of maltreated workers right in the place they could do the most harm - the big cities.

As Zraver pointed out, the Tsar was not a learning organism. One of the clear lessons from 1905 might have been that the strains of war posed a threat to the fragile feudal structure of Russia's society & economy. Instead the Tsar & some key advisors seemed to believe (as the Kaiser & many of his allies in Germany believed) that a war would paper over growing social/political divisions. It MIGHT have worked for Germany, it was NEVER going to work for the Tsar.

Russia would have found a war or a war would have found it. The revolution would have come at some point. The Tsar was his own worst enemy. The strength of any potential opposition was almost incidental. The only question was whether or not the Bolsheviks came out on top. There are far too many variables in this sort of situation to make confident predictions this precise. What the Bolsheviks did have in their favour were smart & ruthless leaders who believed that the fall of the Tsar was inevitable - something many other Russians could not contemplate.

Triple C
21 Sep 08,, 10:38
Ditto. The pillar of Tsarism was Slavic solidarity and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. For senario proposed to happen there would have to be a different Russian beaucracy, more than a couple of different Tsars and essentially an unhistoric Russia. Navigating the challenges the empire faced averting the revolution need a far more capable captain at the helm.

cape_royds
23 Sep 08,, 01:42
A bourgeois revolution in a modernizing Russia was almost inevitable. But it could have taken any of several mild forms, e.g. ousting the Czar but leaving some Romanoff spawn as a constitutional monarch.

But the Leninist effort, to use a "revolutionary vanguard party," to artificially create the conditions for a communist revolution, in what was still largely a pre-capitalist state?

Now that demanded some pretty weird circumstances in order to take place. Bolshevism was an exotic plant which flowered in the hothouse of the Great War--even Lenin's genius would not have sufficed to make it bloom under any other conditions.

cyppok
23 Sep 08,, 03:16
Doubtful, only delayed, as Russia modernized it brought about increasing pressures in two areas. 1- the rise of an intelligentsia outside of the first through third estates 2- the rise of nationalism among non-slavs. You add these two pressures to Czar Nicholas's namby-pamby approach to critical thinking and desire for an external war/victory to mask problems at home and the result is an imperial implosion. And thats without external pressure.

If Russia had avoided engagement in WW1 France would have fallen, Serbia would have been crushed, western Europe would have been over run and in the ruins of Victorian/Edwardian Europe you'd have found the battered remnants of Russian pride as she cowered like a dog racked by internal dissent and bullied by the Austro-Hungarian German super alliance free to turn all its power east if Russia so much as sneezed without permission.

Once the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister decided on war, none of the great powers could stay out of it.


You are wrong. The peasants were all at the front and the land rationalization that started about 1900+/- was having the desired effect. With most of them at the front the labor class had political power and the army was busy and couldn't quell rebelions. If the war ended sooner for Russia and the peasants returned with half the army or so they would have crushed the labor movement since the rural to urban breakdown wast still 80%+ to 15% ...
Considering the devastation of the officer core and the Cossacks during the war that also also skrewed things up. At the very least the divide between bolsheviks and mensheviks would have been different with the later having more power and perhaps with these forces being able to keep it after they got it. Mensheviks were closer to liberals but they were all purged by the bolsheviks eventually. You are forgeting if the officer core survived it would have supported the mensheviks along instead of the radical gov't...
Maybe things would have turned out different but alas we never know. :frown:
Yes if the Tzar realized that the constitutional monarchy of England was much stronger due its sharing of power and followed in a similar structure starting in the 1800s etc...

Kansas Bear
23 Sep 08,, 05:44
Once the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister decided on war, none of the great powers could stay out of it.


True. What didn't help the situation was Germany prodding A-H into a belligerant stance vs Serbia. Thus Russia mobilized only against A-H, then later full mobilization followed by Germany's declaration of war.

zraver
23 Sep 08,, 15:29
You are wrong.

really, lets see what your take on things is then shall we.


The peasants were all at the front and the land rationalization that started about 1900+/- was having the desired effect. With most of them at the front the labor class had political power and the army was busy and couldn't quell rebelions. If the war ended sooner for Russia and the peasants returned with half the army or so they would have crushed the labor movement since the rural to urban breakdown wast still 80%+ to 15% ...
Considering the devastation of the officer core and the Cossacks during the war that also also skrewed things up. At the very least the divide between bolsheviks and mensheviks would have been different with the later having more power and perhaps with these forces being able to keep it after they got it. Mensheviks were closer to liberals but they were all purged by the bolsheviks eventually. You are forgeting if the officer core survived it would have supported the mensheviks along instead of the radical gov't...
Maybe things would have turned out different but alas we never know. :frown:
Yes if the Tzar realized that the constitutional monarchy of England was much stronger due its sharing of power and followed in a similar structure starting in the 1800s etc...

Oh my, it looks like you've described an imperial implosion/civil war just like I did. The big differance is that you did not adress the extenal obligations Russia had with the slavs and national pride. The fact remains that once the forces of modernization were unleashed the eventual fall of the czar was inevitable.