A Better Rifle at Halloween

Liege has to fall for the right wing to swing. It will fall but a bit slower than OTL, the Germans learnt a lot of lessons from liege which meant that Namur and Mauberge fell faster. I had always thought I had a pretty good knowledge of ww1 but writing this has taught me so much that I did not know.
I have learned a hell of a lot about OTL History while discussing Alt History on this site

You have to pretty much have a very good understanding of the "why did that happen that way OTL" in order to create a reasonable POD that withstands scrutiny.
 
True, there is no wonder weapon which will make it any less bloody, if anything it will be worse in the beginning.
Poison gas would be useful, but it's a bit early for that. Perhaps the Germans will try 'smoking out' the fortresses?

I am looking for my French ww1 history but it's not on the shelf, unless my 17 month old daughter has developed an interest in military history even quicker than I did I suspect she has hidden it somewhere. Nope she was innocent, as I see it has been sitting on my desk all along.
No cat then?
 
IF it's not the daughter or a cat hiding things then it's usually the wife (this is usually called tidying up so the wife doesn't have to admit just messing with your head)
 
IF it's not the daughter or a cat hiding things then it's usually the wife (this is usually called tidying up so the wife doesn't have to admit just messing with your head)
No my wife sensibly leaves my office alone, it mostly resembles an untidy version of the Somme.
 
Does anyone know when the French invented the super quick or instantaneous fuse. It was before the British but I am not sure how much earlier, the French had the same obsession with the 75 and the British did with the 18 pounder but I think they did have more high explosive. They struggled to get enough heavy guns and had to bring back museum pieces.
They were experimenting with the ideas of Peusch in 1914 but the system wasn't compatible with the 75mm gun IIRR.
 
Optics
17th August 1914, Whale Island.
Harold Taylor of Thomas Cooke and Sons was demonstrating a new range finder to Admiral Scott. HMS Excellent, which Scott had established was the Royal Navy’s Gunnery school and thus the logical place for this to take place. Previously the navy had preferred optics from Barr and Stroud. With the requirement that director firing be fully implemented Scott was keen to have the improved light gathering capacity of the Cooke instruments, he was also keen to trial the Pollen Aim Correction System.
He would look at what was required to implement it on the next battleship to be commissioned, so that it could then be trialed against the alternative, and thus the best system fitted.
His view was that battleships needed to be able to aim accurately at long range to be any use at all. He had seen what the Imperial German Navy was working on, and the old adage of “no captain can do very wrong if he place his ship alongside that of the enemy” was not going to work with 15“ guns. Long range accurate gunfire was the key and Percy Scott would damn anyone who tried to stop him.
 
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Plumer and III Corps
17th august 1914, Ostend.

The men of the 2nd Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders marched down the road, their pipe band leading. They had just arrived in Ostend to join the rest of the 10th Brigade, part of the 4th Division. The rest of the division should be fully deployed to Belgium within 2 days.

At the same time as the 4th Division was landing in Ostend, the 6th was disembarking in Zeebrugge, their task made more difficult by the poorly developed facilities at Zeebrugge itself. The port was mainly set up for fishing boats and vessels using the canal to Bruges. The ships carrying the 16th Brigade had landed the men alongside the mole but it was difficult to unload heavy equipment. The 16th brigade would advance forward to Bruges and once it was secure it could be used for the remainder of the division. The ongoing siege of Liege was showing the values of using built up areas for defensive positions.

General Plumer had already met with King Albert 1, and with the Chief of the General Staff General Antonin de Selliers de Moranville. He had also spent time in dealing with Lieutenant General Baix whose command covered Ghent and thus covered Ostend and Zeebrugge. Once his forces were fully deployed his corp would be a powerful and mobile asset which could be used in a variety of ways. Plumers overarching instruction was to defend the Belgian coastline, and ensure he had secure communications back to England. Plumer expected that he would also be reinforced with a pair of Territorial Force Divisions as yet which ones was not known. Likely one of them would be a London Division as both Territorial forces had accepted volunteered in huge numbers and had many men resuming the colours, they would therefore be at full strength. Already permission had been granted for 2nd battalions to form for every territorial battalion that volunteered for overseas service, and those units were to provide trained replacements both for the territorial battalions but also for the regular divisions as well. Men on overseas service would be transferred between battalions but only within their regiment. This had long been army practice for the regular army but it was seen as a way to retain as many valuable regulars as possible but also to share the skills of the regulars with the territorials at the same time. But in the short term whilst the volunteers trained, it would be the regulars and then the territorials who would shoulder the burden.
Plumer was surprised by how well the Belgians were performing, the men besieged in Liege were still holding. Many of the forts had be knocked out but the ruins and every building had been turned into a strong point needing to be smashed with artillery before it was taken with the bayonet, the city would fall but every day was immensely valuable.
The time was being used to integrate the Garde Civique with the Army, every former soldier had also been called up, even if often they had had to be equipped with obsolete weapons. These recalled troops would not be able to stand in the line against the German Army but they could hold villages and strong points forcing the invader to deploy to attack them and slowing the advance.
General Leman, that modern day Carnot was using every means in his power to delay the fall of Liege, he had called up those men who had been in Army and were under 50 they were even now helping to hold the line, their casualties were severe but they helped. Likewise any man who had no experience but who was strong enough to wield a shovel or swing a pick was digging trenches and making strongholds. Again casualties were severe but the heroic struggle of Liege was on the lips of every Belgian from the King down. The rage against the German invader was growing, even the bitter national division which splintered the nation was being healed by the threat from the East.
 
I used to live with one of Carnot's descendants in London. She was quite proud of him, but I don't remember what of note he did, aside from his office
 
I used to live with one of Carnot's descendants in London. She was quite proud of him, but I don't remember what of note he did, aside from his office
Lazare Carnot was governor of Antwerp when it was besieged during 1814, he held the city from mid January till the collapse of Napoleons empire in May 1814.
 
ANMEF
19th August 1914, Sydney
The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force departed Sydney aboard HMS Berrima, the forcewas almost 1500 strong, more men would join the force in Townsville from the Kennedy Regiment. This first Australian force was to go to Rabaul to capture the radio station, this radio was being used by Vice Admiral Von Spee whose naval units threatened Empire communications in the Pacific. A New Zealand unit was being deployed to Samoa, for a similar purpose.
 
Charnel House
19th August 1914, Liege

The relentless pounding of the guns was shattering the nerves of all involved, the screams of the wounded, the burning buildings, the gaunt look of the children, the siege was a vision of hell on earth. General Leman didn’t know how much longer he would be able to hold, his men were still disciplined, the Garde Civique and local volunteers were still holding but their spirit was brittle. The food situation was not yet critical but between the super heavy howitzers demolishing the forts, and the heavy guns shelling the town the situation was becoming untenable.
With many of the forts smashed and their guns dismounted or destroyed, the German artillery had pushed as far forward as possible, bringing more of the city under fire. The 10.5cm Howitzer batteries were focussing their efforts on the entrenchments and those strong points which were holding up the infantry advance. Trying to identify artillery and other targets of opportunity, three observation balloons were floating above the German lines and connected via telephone to the heavier 15cm howitzers which able to fire deeper into the defences.
Where they could the forts attempted to return fire, likewise the surviving guns of the infantry battalion would fire on the German infantry as they attacked the Belgian defences. They had not yet run out of ammunition, the decision had been made to distribute the ammunition for the field guns away from the garrison stores. Now small quantities were scattered throughout the town, enough for a gun or a pair of guns to fire a few shrapnel shells or even occasionally a high explosive shell at a target they could see or a brave observer in a church tower could signal to them. The Germans were steadily demolishing all the high places in the town, unfortunately many churches were being used both as observation points but also as improvised hospitals. The charnel horror that occurred when a 15cm high explosive round burst in a stone church filled with the wounded was enough to turn the strongest stomach. The churches weren’t just filled with the wounded, the homeless and the terrified sought shelter within them, their flesh was just easily ruptured by high velocity steel.
Leman knew that he could halt the ordeal, all he had to do was surrender that would spare the people of Liege, but the cost of their safety would be paid by every other Belgian. The great army that was currently destroying Liege and killing his solders would be free to focus instead on other towns, it would give them the opportunity to move unimpeded by his stoutly defended fortress. Every day he held the French were able to attack, the British to bring their army ashore, the reserves to be called up and all the other things that depended on Liege being a bone in the throat of the German Army. Leman knew he would eventually fail, he knew his defiance would be paid by the innocents, but the King has given him this task and he would sooner die than fail.
 
Holyhead
19th August 1914, Holyhead.
Percy Ludgate had arrived at Holyhead, he was carrying his papers on the Analytical Machine including a full set of drawings, in the goods carriage was a working example of the device. Professor Boys met him on the platform as they changed trains for London, as well as the professor a number of other men were with him including William Bragg, and Sir Alfred Ewing they were all introduced. Several unsmiling naval ratings were also on the platform maintaining a discrete bubble around them. Ludgate was startled by the way in which his baggage suddenly appeared and was loaded onto a separate goods car again with further naval personnel taking charge of it, they also were surprisingly gentle with the equipment, clearly they had some knowledge of its importance.
Ludgate was then ushered onto the London Train, the carriage in which they sat was empty save the ubiquitous matelots and a pair stewards, tea was served, and the stewards withdrew, then the questioning started. The questions were technical in nature and soon the drawings came out the dining table in the carriage was rapidly cleared and the discussion grew animated as Ludgate began explaining the mechanism. The conversation swung back and forth between the mechanics of the design and the underlying logic of how the device worked and what tasks it could be used for. This carried on as the train headed straight into London.
 
Collapse of Plan XVII
20th August 1914, Lorraine.
Plan XVII was the French Plan to recapture the lost territories of the Alsace and Lorraine, it was to be war of movement which would be bloody but one in which the morale and elain of the French Infantry coupled with their superlative field gun the 75mm would drive back the occupying Germans and liberate the lost territories. Plan XVII was informed both by the shocking defeat and national humiliation of the Franco-Prussian war and by the success of the Japanese in the Ruso-Japanese War.
During the Franco-Prussian war the French Army had failed to make effective use of the railway network and their artillery was obsolescent in the face of the Prussian Guns. In the Russo-Japanese war, the attacking Japanese had finally overcome the Russian defences during the siege of Port Arthur, they had made repeated attacks into the Russian Guns taking savage losses but also finally capturing their objective, with the fall of Port Arthur the Russians had negotiated peace.
The early parts of Plan XVII had gone relatively well, with initial attacks capturing parts of the contested provinces, however as the First and Second Armies advanced they had become separated, the four corps of First army had further diverged from each other as well. But long range German Artillery and dug in infantry had caused heavy casualties.
The counterattack came from the 6th Army commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria supported by the 7thArmy, had just started, in the lead was the 5th Bavarian Division. They had captured the villages of Fremery, Oron and Chicourt by 9:15 in the morning after an attack starting at dawn. This successful attack started to roll up the French units, owing to their becoming separated and the limited communications between units in different corps it was possible for the attacks to deal with each unit in isolation. The German advantage in indirect fire capability with their 10.5cm and 15cm howitzers was decisive, the 2nd army was battered by fire, the artillery was followed by waves of German infantry attacking, and two corps of the second army, XV and XVI broke.
 
Churchill New
20th August 1914, London.

Winston Churchill had returned to London, his meetings with Joffre had been illuminating, the General was confident of the success of Plan XVII, though he was somewhat concerned by the casualities taken in the attacks so far. Likewise worrying reports existed on the effectiveness of German Heavy Guns in particular their ability to use indirect fire.
Naval matters were progressing well, Percy Scott was driving hard to ensure that all Battleships, Battlecruisers and Modern Cruisers were equiped for Director Firing, he was working with both British Optics companies to get the best instruments in the ships. The Royal Navy seemed to have also found themselves a new Calculating Machine, developed by an Irish Accountant of all things, the code breakers and the scientists were busy trying to work out what it could do. But they had been sufficiently interested too near on commandeer a troop train to get the man to London to explain his device. The sixth Queen Elisabeth Class HMS Agincourt would be laid down next week and it was anticipated that it would be in service by 1917 at the latest. The follow on ships the R Class were less satisfactory , they were going to be slow and by the time they were commissioned there was every risk the Imperial Fleet would have more fast battleships, not to mention what the Americans and the Japanese were doing, the Royal Navy had obligations beyond bottling up the High Seas Fleet. The planning for the fleet composition was still ongoing, there was a strong push for more fast battleships to be built something like an improved Queen Elisabeth Class, but perhaps with triple turrets. Lloyd George would no doubt be apoplectic but as he was busy sending every trained soldier he could scrape up to France and Belgium, the Fleet would be the one and only defence for Britain.
The Siege of Liege was still going on, the heroic General Leman had suffered a severe wound in the battle, he had lost a hand to a shell fragment. His second in command had assumed command and had sworn to fight on inspired by his leaders courage. Churchill wanted nothing more than to meet Leman, he would speak of his courage in resisting the Hun in the House at the next chance he got. The Belgian fortresses had not proven to be particularly effective in and of themselves, but they had provided useful anchors for the rest of the defence. Namur and Antwerp were doing all that they could to strengthen their lines, every spare yard of barbed wire was being shipped over from Britain as quickly as it could be assembled, an order had also been placed with the Americans for as much of their gigantic production as could be had. Likewise sandbags were being produced both in Britain and in Belgium for the building of revetments and breastworks. III corps was still forming up, they had fully secured Bruges and two brigades had advanced to Ghent were they were reinforcing the Belgian defences. The King of the Belgians was very keen for the British army to take part in the defence of Antwerp, this was seen by Leopold as being even more important than the defence of Liege but Churchill and Sir John French did not want the British Army to get sucked into the fighting in that built up area.
The British army was better used as a strategic reserve, its tactical mobility was facilitated by the greater motorisation compared to the French or the Belgians, the effective firepower of the SMLE rifle and the excellence of the British field artillery would enable them to plug holes in threatened sectors.
Once the additional territorial divisions arrived and the yeomanry division the channel ports would be well secured and the regulars could then threaten any German moves either against Antwerp or should they attempt to bypass it and wheel into France they would be at risk from a sally by the British from Ghent.
The BEF was also completing its mobilisation into France, 4 divisions plus a Cavalry division again this force would double once the territorials had come into the line.
Churchill had also seen a disturbing report on the original SMLE MK1 jamming when being loaded from its magazine with the newer ammunition, this problem was confined to the territorial divisions who still retained the older rifles. One enterprising battalion, The London Scottish had already solved the problem, they had purchased enough of the Farquhar Hill rifle to equip themselves.
It was felt that this experiment was worth continuing as sufficient rifles existed to equip a further two battalions at this stage. Farquhar and Hill were both working as hard as they could to increase production of their rifle, currently their factory was making 75 rifles per day working 6 days a week, they felt they could have another battalion equipped in 2 weeks. They were also in discussions with Birmingham Small Arms to have them also take on production of the rifle if they were assured of orders. Birmingham Metals were producing ammunition for the rifles at their maximum capacity, willing to risk their company on the success of the new rifle and the need for its unique ammunition.
Churchill was getting a bit stale, his hours of work were onerous, he felt that he should perhaps go and take a direct look at this new rifle after all as an old soldier and veteran of the Boer War he was well placed to judge what worked. With that he rose from his desk and summoned a car, he would go up to see for himself.
 
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