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Thread: almost 100 years since Italy betrays Germany and Austria-Hungary

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    The French fleet comprised 6 "modern" pre-dreadnoughts, they had 11 other semi-modern pre-dreadnoughts. They also had 2 turret ships still active but nearing the end of their lives and not fit for the line. The rest of the French pre-dreadnought fleet was mostly laid up or stricken by 1913.

    Austrian had 3 modern battleships, 6 semi-battleships that had lighter throw weight but more speed. Italy had 8 battleships in service. Italian and Austrian ships tended to be faster than the French ships.

    So the actual battle line was France 17, and the Central Powers 17. The CP also had mass. The French fleet was split between Mainland and Metropolitan France. Armored cruisers saw some action in European waters, but protected cruisers were almost universally colonial service ships. Importantly, France had none of the new light cruiser/destroyer leader ships. The French lead in destroyers is more than offset by the huge lead in ocean going torpedo boats. France can raid Italy, and generate the same bad press that the German's got when they hit the British coast, or they can stay massed and await the threat of a CP sortie into the Med. This threat is why the RN would detail off some older battleships to protect Africa and not have the crews for more escorts.

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toby View Post
    Toby, I think my figures are right. If you look at the table above the combined total 'pre-dreadnought' strength of the Anglo-French allies is 60 ships. Likewise the figures quoted for the other classes is their combined total. Some of those pre-dreadnoughts were no doubt real clunkers,well past their prime and ready for the breakers yard. But a lot weren't, especially those build post 1898-1900 up to just before or after the launch of the Dreadnought in 1906.

    You are right though, the scenario I outlined would be one where the French were predominant because as noted previously the British Dreadnoughts and BCs were needed in the North Sea so the scenario I outlined would be one where the French were willing to commit their 4 Dreadnoughts to a swift campaigning in the Med as discussed with GB backing them up with the pick of their best pre-Dreadnought ships (as many as they could afford to release) and as many of their cruisers as they can spare to comfortably shift the balance of firepower their way.

    Z, in right too. The campaign would have the committed to as fast as was practicable, the Allies would have to be aggressive and take the initiative. As he pointed out the crews of those older battleships were going to be desperately needed elsewhere by early 15 at the latest so the Allies have less than six months to cripple or otherwise neutralize the Austro-Italian battle line - thereby exposing the west Italian coast to attack by the superior numbers of the allied cruiser and destroyer squadrons. They can't afford to wait out the enemy the way Britain did in the North Sea. And I think that the biggest impediment to my plan, I'm pretty sure the French and British could get organized faster than the Italians and Austrians plus geography is on their side. The question is would they have the 'cojones' to carry it out or do they wimp out, sit and wait?
    Last edited by Monash; 14 Dec 17, at 10:12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Toby, I think my figures are right. If you look at the table above the combined total 'pre-dreadnought' strength of the Anglo-French allies is 60 ships. Likewise the figures quoted for the other classes is their combined total. Some of those pre-dreadnoughts were no doubt real clunkers,well past their prime and ready for the breakers yard. But a lot weren't, especially those build post 1898-1900 up to just before or after the launch of the Dreadnought in 1906.

    You are right though, the scenario I outlined would be one where the French were predominant because as noted previously the British Dreadnoughts and BCs were needed in the North Sea so the scenario I outlined would be one where the French were willing to commit their 4 Dreadnoughts to a swift campaigning in the Med as discussed with GB backing them up with the pick of their best pre-Dreadnought ships (as many as they could afford to release) and as many of their cruisers as they can spare to comfortably shift the balance of firepower their way.

    Z, in right too. The campaign would have the committed to as fast as was practicable, the Allies would have to be aggressive and take the initiative. As he pointed out the crews of those older battleships were going to be desperately needed elsewhere by early 15 at the latest so the Allies have less than six months to cripple or otherwise neutralize the Austro-Italian battle line - thereby exposing the west Italian coast to attack by the superior numbers of the allied cruiser and destroyer squadrons. They can't afford to wait out the enemy the way Britain did in the North Sea. And I think that the biggest impediment to my plan, I'm pretty sure the French and British could get organized faster than the Italians and Austrians plus geography is on their side. The question is would they have the 'cojones' to carry it out or do they wimp out, sit and wait?
    Ah right, I see where you coming from.

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    Just rereading the title of the thread and I would say technically speaking that Italy didn't betray its allies. As it only counted if one of the triple alliance powers was attacked and didn't count if one of the triple alliance was the attacker.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Z, in right too. The campaign would have the committed to as fast as was practicable, the Allies would have to be aggressive and take the initiative. As he pointed out the crews of those older battleships were going to be desperately needed elsewhere by early 15 at the latest so the Allies have less than six months to cripple or otherwise neutralize the Austro-Italian battle line - thereby exposing the west Italian coast to attack by the superior numbers of the allied cruiser and destroyer squadrons. They can't afford to wait out the enemy the way Britain did in the North Sea. And I think that the biggest impediment to my plan, I'm pretty sure the French and British could get organized faster than the Italians and Austrians plus geography is on their side. The question is would they have the 'cojones' to carry it out or do they wimp out, sit and wait?
    Through early 15 the bulk of the French fleet was on escort duty bringing in colonial/ foreign service troops from Metropolitan France and its colonies. The risk of a combined CP sortie into the med will probably keep the French ships west of Sicily. Raiding the Italian coast.... bad press. though Gallipolli may be fought at Anzio instead. Italian coast defenses are almost non-existent in 1914/15.

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    can't see any strategic advantage for Anzio. the point of Gallipoli was because Churchill thought he could easily smash his way in and open up a supply route to the Russians, and also threaten the German southern flank.

    also in the context of 1915, the lack of coast defenses doesn't mean too much as long as the area in question could be easily reinforced. there wasn't much in the way of defenses in the Dardanelles, either, and of course the infamous trench system in Western Europe almost popped up overnight in fall 1914.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    can't see any strategic advantage for Anzio. the point of Gallipoli was because Churchill thought he could easily smash his way in and open up a supply route to the Russians, and also threaten the German southern flank.

    also in the context of 1915, the lack of coast defenses doesn't mean too much as long as the area in question could be easily reinforced. there wasn't much in the way of defenses in the Dardanelles, either, and of course the infamous trench system in Western Europe almost popped up overnight in fall 1914.
    Maybe a march on Rome, Italy had the only capitol within reach of the sea other than the Ottomans. Plus Churchill... Ottoman defenses of the Dardanelles were not up to American standards, we were world leaders in coast defense forts, but they proved good enough. Mines, torpedoes and field artillery in a tight straight sent several allied battleships to the bottom. The whole point of Gallipolli was to clear those defenses so the straights could be passed safely after several ships were lost. The UK lost 5 battleships, 1 destroyer and 4 submarines sunk and 1 battlecruiser damaged. The French lost 1 battleship and 5 submarines with another old battleship scuttled as a block ship when it became clear the battle was lost. The sinking of 6 battleships is double what the HSF managed.

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    i think what Gallipoli demonstrated was that even a half-assed defense with 1915 technology would create a significant butcher's bill for the attacker. the Italians weren't exactly the hardest fighters ever in WWI, but I'd guess that a march on Rome would mobilize them like never before.

    to the extent that the Italians going CP would have helped in WWI, it probably would have forced the UK to expend more resources in securing the Mediterranean/Suez-- but again, these would be resources that weren't blown fighting in Gallipoli, so it'd be a wash.

    hmm. biggest change would probably be with the Ottomans. if they sit out the war, then they wouldn't melt down afterwards...which means an entirely different ME.

    second would be Italy, if they are beaten but without much loss, would they go fascist? no feeling of Allied betrayal after all. which has a bunch of other add-on effects, would there be a Spanish Civil War?

    this is actually a more difficult long-term scenario to envision than it is at first glance.
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    Atsy, I still think Germany's full access to the grain harvest of Eastern Europe and freed up troops of AH will have a bigger impact. The Ottomans are jumping in regardless, they want a chance at Russia. They were gonna get mauled, but they didn't think so when they jumped in.

    Though I agree a march on Rome would be a butchers bill. Though that never stopped British commanders in WWI.
    However, without a Italy joining the entente, would the UK and Ottomans have tangled in Arabia and Egypt?

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    A couple of points:

    Firstly as I see it (assuming a superior allied force is assembled) the Central Powers don't have many palatable options. By 'immediately' threatening the West Coast of Italy they force the Italians to either:

    1) withdraw their fleet elements on the west coast to the Adriatic - there to combine with Austrian units before a sortie.
    2) leave them in place (or even reinforce them) and risk defeat in detail before the Austrians arrive. (And I think the Austrians would insist on home basing for their major fleet elements if only because (logistical issues aside) they would not want to leave their Adriatic coast exposed.
    3) Having sortied and lost (via attrition?) a naval battle in the Western Med - permanent retreat to the Adriatic for the rest of the war.

    Next assuming they have driven their opponents out of the Western Med I don't think 'bad press' is necessarily an issue re; any raids on the Italian coast. This is because these attacks (unlike the German raids on England) would be classed (& sold to the World) as precursors to an actual invasion. Given the even temporary absence of the enemy naval forces (while repairs etc are made) the attacks would not be 'hit and run' either, Allied naval forces could sortie and spend a couple days if necessary systematically destroying military infrastructure at any place of their choosing as a precursor to invasion proper (regardless of whether or not said invasion was still only in the planning stages). That kind of attack was simply never an option for the Germans, if they weren't on their way back to home port by first daylight they knew they would be intercepted and probably destroyed.

    Also when comparing a proposed landing on the Italian Coast to Gallipoli I would note that fixed naval defenses are not a real issue -asside from major ports. At Gallipoli the Allied navies were trying to force the Bosporus -arguably the most enclosed and defensible seaway in the world. Clearly this is not a problem in the scenario we are talking about. Then the landing sites at Gallipoli were only a short distance from the Turkish capital and therefore (once the Turks got organized) comparatively easy to reinforce and supply. Also away from the coast Allied maps of the terrain at Gallipoli were completely unreliable -allied soldiers literally had no idea of the terrain behind their immediate landing points and, as is so often the case that terrain when encountered strongly favored the defenders.

    Again these issues do not necessary apply in any proposed Italian landing, you have plenty of choices as to location (i.e you are not confined to difficult terrain on a narrow peninsula) and you will have detailed maps. Nor do you have to land near Rome unless you really want to. For example a landing near Genoa opens up all sorts of possibilities for threatening the rear of Italian forces on the French 'front' or indeed Italy's connections to their Austrian Allies in the North. In short a lot of the problems that plagued the Allies at Gallipoli are not relevant. That said the Allies still have plenty of opportunities to stuff things up e.g, failure to exploit initial surprise due to over caution, inertia or logistical issues etc. command rivalries, over optimistic or under optimistic timetables and schedules. The usual stuff ups that plagued armies during the WW1 - and later.

    I suspect however that assuming the Allies win anything like a major victory at sea and then follow that up that victory with overt preparations for invasion then Italy might well take the opportunity to request an armistice asap - provided the terms were not onerous. (And lets face it at this early stage of the war the Allies would be foolish not to accept a request for peace from the Italians. Italy was never the main game.

    Finally I do note however that should the Allies suffer a serious naval defeat against the Austrians & Italians then obviously all of the above goes out the window. Assuming American intervention on the side of the Allies goes ahead as was reality I still think the Allies would win - the war war would just be longer, bloodier and more destructive.
    Last edited by Monash; 20 Dec 17, at 06:49.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post

    I suspect however that assuming the Allies win anything like a major victory at sea and then follow that up that victory with overt preparations for invasion then Italy might well take the opportunity to request an armistice asap - provided the terms were not onerous. (And lets face it at this early stage of the war the Allies would be foolish not to accept a request for peace from the Italians. Italy was never the main game.

    Finally I do note however that should the Allies suffer a serious naval defeat against the Austrians & Italians then obviously all of the above goes out the window. Assuming American intervention on the side of the Allies goes ahead as was reality I still think the Allies would win - the war war would just be longer, bloodier and more destructive.
    Italy on the sidelines helps the Central Powers. It frees up huge number of troops on the AH/Italian front for use against Russia and gives AH the reserves to absorb the Brusilov Offensive. Plus it preserves the grain market. It takes a mortally wounded AH for Romania to jump in. Plus noItaly means no barrage of the Adriatic, but it was mostly ineffective anyway. On the allied side, with no need to supply Italy several thousand guns and a mountain of shells get added to the Western Front meat grinder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Italy on the sidelines helps the Central Powers. It frees up huge number of troops on the AH/Italian front for use against Russia a.
    Italy wasn't on the sidelines though and got bogged down in a static war with Austria/Hungary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toby View Post
    Italy wasn't on the sidelines though and got bogged down in a static war with Austria/Hungary
    This is a what if discussion. Italy as a CP or a neutral helps the CP far more than it helps the allies. Germany had 2 major handicaps in WWI. First, she could not produce enough nitrates for fertlizer and explosives nor provide enough manpower for farms and front lines. Forced labor from Poland and the grain trade in Eastern Europe until Romania jumped in offset this to a certain amount. But once Romania jumped in Germany's food situation went from merely bad, where the biggest problem was distribution to worse when food actually became scarce. Second, her population was not big enough to fight a two front war. Germany began calling up classes before they turned 18 in 1915 when the class of 1916 was called up. By 1918 Germany was conscripting 16 year olds and accepting younger volunteers and the use of child soldiers became widespread.

    In this discussion, either Italy as a member of the CPO, or sitting the war out means the grain trade is going to be secure. Romania wont jump in if the AH are doing at least OK in the war. Without the Italian front the AH are fighting a one front war against Russia who is fighting the AH, Germans and Turks. Also not needing to provide troops to the AH means Germany has more troops to use in the East (Early defeat of Russia?) or West.

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    Z, in the scenarios we are looking at Italy is already on the side of the Central Powers so they automatically receive whatever benefits derive from that decision (particularly in terms of Austria's ability to redeploy troops) from day one of the war.

    A swift allied victory in the Med followed by Italy's withdrawal from the war is still an adverse outcome for the Central Powers because at least some of the troops that were in the process of being transferred to the Russian campaign front will have to be kept in place guarding the Italian frontier.

    This is especially the case because Austria can't know the exact terms of the Italian armistice until it is signed. After all for all they know it could entail not just a withdrawal from the war but rather a change of allegiance to the Allied side. Which strategically puts us back where we were in the real world.

    This is mainly why I reckon on a swift Allied response to Italy's entry into the war on the side of the CPs. The sooner they get in and change this the less impact it will have on the outcome of the war. Italy is about the only continental power that can be knocked out of the war quickly if bold action is taken. All the others required a campaign of attrition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Germany began calling up classes before they turned 18 in 1915 when the class of 1916 was called up. By 1918 Germany was conscripting 16 year olds and accepting younger volunteers and the use of child soldiers became widespread.
    Conscription in the Northern Federation was always age 17 to 45 in wartime - and they were highly precise in that. The Landsturm general mobilization on August 2nd 1914 called up everyone born between Aug 2nd 1869 and Aug 2nd 1897 (i.e. between 17 and 45), with successive years moving that frame. With demobilization in 1918 the overall frame of those drafted shifted to all born before Nov 11th 1901.

    The birth years 1901 to 1913 were later colloquially known as the "White Years", i.e. containing those who did not serve in the Reichswehr and were also too old to be called up for the Wehrmacht; there was, beginning 1935, a formal programme basically giving the White Years only basic training and then directly moving them to the reserves for WW2.

    The minimum age of "16" for volunteers in WWI mostly stemmed from the recruiting age of cadet schools (army and navy), where you could join up at age 14 - to be precise at the end of the school year in the calendar year in which you had already been 14 on March 31st - but were not considered a soldier until completing initial training after the first two years and thus being 16. There were children beyond that serving here and there, but much like in other armies these had faked being older on volunteering.

    Generating enlisted soldiers wasn't that much of a problem either, the main problem was finding NCOs and officers throughout the war. The Army already complained in early 1915 after the regular troops and reserves had shipped out that the captains in the replacement troops were in their 50s; the recruitment of older NCOs above 45 as volunteers was limited to those who had served at least 8 years and to the complaint of the army most of these NCOs had never seen a G98 rifle before as they had served before its introduction.

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