Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jim Smitty, Jan 3, 2017.
God I know that feeling
For the French the opening offensive performed by Germany along with their own failed offensive also destroyed them. Yet their pride couldn’t allow for them to have so much of their nation occupied by the Boche to control so much of their nation. Also simple economics said they had to push the lines back east as large amounts of their industry and coal fields were near the front or controlled by the Boche. Notably was the town of Bethune. It was in what had become known as the Bethune Salient. Yet this one town mined the lion’s share of coal used by both the remaining parts of French industry in their hands along with keep the civilian population warm during the winter months. They had to remove this threat from their major coal mining source or face ruin.
Yet between their failed offensive into Elsass-Lothrigen and the Race to the Sea had left the French Army in poor shape. Even more so since a number of key industries were on the wrong side of the front. Third string units, and even some second string units were being equipped with Gras Rifles that had been taken out of storage as there weren’t enough every unit with Lebel Rifles. Even the international arms market was bare as many nations that could make weapons were wanting to keep them at home. If they were selling they were charging insanely high prices for them. Its one of the reasons that saw the French place an order for 500,000 Japanese Arisaka Rifles. For artillery it was even worse with the French bring back Reffye 85mm Cannons which were made with Bronze barrels back up to front line service.
However, by the end of November the French had whipped their army back into shape. They still hadn’t overcome, the supply issues but the army was ready to fight again. They decided to make the Bethune Salient the focus of their offensive assault. The brought up the French Ninth Army which had been spared the heavy casualty rate of the other armies as it had been held in reserved and only used at the Battle of the Marne to kept the Germans from taking the bridgeheads need to take Paris. It was moved up to the front and put into position to assault both sides of the salient and push the front back. This offensive was also to test some new tactics after the total failure in their campaign into Elsass-Lothrigen.
The French started the Second Battle of Bethune on December 5th with a heavy artillery barrage. This barrage lasted all day into the morning of the next. It also made use of battery of 340mm Model 1887 Naval Guns which had been stripped off the old battleship Brennus and mounted on railway trucks to give the Ninth Army heavier firepower. This was becoming common as the French were in dire need of heavier artillery and were stripping older ships that were no use anymore of their guns to move them up to the front.
Following this barrage the French infantry when over the top to try and take the ground on the southern part of the salient. Only they were greeted by German artillery and machine gun fire from well built up positions. Between barbed wire and machine guns it made advancing next to impossible. Not wanting to give up on the offensive the commander of the 9th called off the over the top attacks on the 10th of December. He then switched to a tunneling effort. This paid off in some minor territorial gains as the Germans didn’t think to defend from under the ground as well.
The offensive was called off by March 2nd. The French in their second offensive of the war had made some minor gains in their efforts to push back the salient around Bethune. The salient however remained around the all-important coal fields. Gains were in some areas measured in only meters gained. The French had also used far more in the way of artillery shells and rifle ammo than they had projected. Some units were critically short on ammo by the end of the offensive. The cost in human life had also been high as well. It had been about a two to one ratio that the French to Germans died in the Second Battle of Bethune. The rate of wounded was a bit higher than that. It was an inconclusive battle that just proved that a war of movement was going to be a distance dream for the French in the near future.
Germans should just remain defensive in the west. Let the French and Co. get ground up at the trenches and focus on knocking out Russia.
Win or lose, France post-war won't be pretty
This is a world war, nobody will be in a good situation after; not even ITTL USA as even if they will capable to overrun Canada with relative ease...the important term is relative. The defender always have the advantage here and we are talking about the British army, so they will face well equipped professional so it's probable that just the first offensive will cause more casualities than the war agaisnt Spain, Germany and Mexico put together.
Sorry for the delay with the next update. I been dealing with a muze that has been highjacked by another TL idea, dealing with my sister and her issues with her pregnancy, and in general how tricky this next update is to write. However, my sister and her baby's health have improved greatly and my muze is mostly happy with this other idea (Still debating if I try to write this as a TL or make my first effort at a novel) and having the Eurkea moment with this next update I should have this update ready in a day or two.
We understand. Life and whim wait for no man.
Hey good luck with your sister and nephew, family is the most important thing...but if you want a very unsolicited advise, go for the novel approach, you are a good writer (but you still need a good proofreader) and it's time to spread your wings.
Thanks for that vote confidence in the novel approach. But for the record I'm going to be having a niece in the near future not a nephew.
Having been there done that with nieces, be prepared to be manipulated from day 1. Enjoy it...
For the Royal Navy the start also meant the start of a blockade of the North German Coast. Yet they faced problems of their own from the start of the war. The Royal Navy without question was the world’s largest navy as they were trying to maintain the two power standard. Those next two powers navies who were used as this standard were the United States Navy and the Kaiserliche Marine. It also when along with the still on going Anglo-American Naval Arms race that had pushed the United States Navy into being the second largest navy in the world. However, even with the increase spending on the Royal Navy the RN still had failed to reach the stated law of being a two power standard.
When the war started the Royal Navy had a total of 24 Colossus Battleships in commission with their fleet, with a further 40 pre-Colossus Battleships and 10 Battlecruisers in commission. That was not counting the Royal Australian Navy’s battlecruisers in these numbers. No question this was a powerful force, yet the Kaiserliche Marine had a force of 11 Colossus Battleships, 15 pre-Colossus Battleships, and 3 Battlecruisers and all of these were in home waters for them. If the RN only had to deal with the KM their force would been more than enough to shut down the North German Coast. However, the United States Navy also had to be taken into account in planning by the RN. The USN boosted a force of 18 Colossus Battleships, 32 pre-Colossus Battleships, and 6 Battlecruisers. The US was known to be hostile to British interest and the British simply couldn’t remove all of their ships and deploy them against Germany.
British allies were less than helpful in the terms of numbers. The Russians who were still recovering from the slacking they took at the hand of the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War had no Colossus Battleships nor Battlecruisers in commission and only 8 pre-Colossus Battleships in commission. Most of those were stuck in the Black Sea. The Marine Nationale boosted a force of only 4 Colossus Battleships with no Battlecruisers and 14 pre-Colossus and 6 semi-Colossus Battleships. Even through the 4 Colossus battleships in the MN were newly commissioned they were already out of date. They were more along the lines of the Colossus herself and not the new super-Colossus battleships that were in commissioned or being built by the RN, KM, or USN. Further the MN was assigned to the Mediterranean with the pre-war agreements between London and Paris. Other British allies couldn’t send ships to help as they had to keep them close to home for various reasons.
With the fact they had to face the KM as well as keep forces deployed to make sure the US wouldn’t get jumpy the British decided on a two fold plan. First was they elected to start a distance blockade of Germany. This was hoped would be enough to keep the Germans bottled up and cut them off from world trade. However the list of what was barred by the blockade was so long and covered all duel-use resources that the distance blockade drew protest from the United States and Brazil as both nations sold resources to all nations and a large part of their economies were based on that.
Secondly the British embarked on a massive naval building program. This started by seizing control of naval ships being built in the British Isles but were owned by foreign nations. All told this included 10 Colossus Battleships, 2 Coastal Defense Ships, and a host of lesser ships being seized in various stages of the building process. These ships had been ordered by the Ottomans, Chileans, Argentines, Norwegians, the Dutch, and others. It further saw the cancellation of two Colossus Battleships that had been ordered by the Dutch and two large Battlecruisers ordered by the Brazilians. Yet it didn’t stop there. Even before the war the British had 15 Colossus Battleships and 3 Battlecruisers under various stages of construction process. Yet under the War Emergency order of 1914 they ordered a further 8 Colossus Battleships and 4 Battlecruisers along with a host of lesser ships. It was a simply massive naval build up.
As the blockade started the Germans sat in port. Kaiser Wilhelm II remembered all too well the painful Island War of 20 years prior where his navy was wrecked by the USN. He steadfastly refused to allow his battleline challenge the might of the Royal Navy in battle for fear of losing it. Had this been a war against the Russians and French only he would had deployed his own fleet to challenge them, yet against the RN he refused to allow the fleet sail against the RN. As such it was limited to light units to attack the RN. They did score some early victories but not enough to change the balance of power.
Internationally it was the United States who was testing the limits of the blockade as set for by the British. Some merchant captains in the early days of the war were brazen and ran the blockade openly. Yet as the blockade became tighter many turned to sailing to neutral nations such as Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, or even Sweden. Where they would unload their goods and said goods would be loaded onto German flag merchants to take it back to Germany. Even through the flow of imports into Germany was seriously hurt by the blockade it hadn’t been cut. It had been more of a water hose going full blast to a smaller but steady stream.
For the British they knew of these trips. In the winter of 1915 they place pressure on the governments of these nations to clamp down on this kind of trade. Yet this caused another protest to come from the United States as they viewed this as the British effecting the freedom of the seas as they weren’t responsible for the final destination of the goods. This placed the smaller neutral nations in a weird position were two great powers were pressuring them into an impossible spot. As spring 1916 reach the world it was clear that this couldn’t go on, the question was what would give.
 Pre-Dread layout, Steam Turbine Engines
Me sees a Lusitania scenario in the near future.
With the Brits or the US as the culprits this time?
Britain. They'll sink a US ship docking at a Norweigen Dock sparking public outrage.
I could see that happening.
oh great, War of 1812 all over again
I can't wait
Opss...still good luck for everything to you and your family
The distant blockade, and the interception of cargoes manifested for neutral ports but which were dual use was unpopular early on OTL. As US opinion shifted from neutral to pro-Entente (for a number of reasons) this dissatisfaction faded. It should be noted that the Germans built some cargo U-boats which made a couple of voyages to the USA and brought back some high value cargoes although these trips were as much for show as anything else. The submarines were registered as merchant vessels and had a civilian crew.
ITTL the USA is much more firmly neutral, or even leaning German. Some of the forces that led to the pro-Entente stance (propaganda from the president, large loans to the Entente only repayable if they won, etc) are not working here. I very much doubt the Germans would sink an American ship deliberately, and if it happened by accident they would immediately pay reparations and apologize - in any case unrestricted (no warning) submarine warfare has not started yet and the U-boats are not really operating way out in the open ocean yet. The British would stop a ship, perhaps with a warning shot, put a prize crew on board, sail it to a British port and basically confiscate the ship and cargo through a prize court. No merchant skipper is going to be crazy enough to keep going after a warning shot or two - its suicide.
There are two issues with the British doing what is mentioned above. First this will piss off the USA seriously. Secondly if the cargoes are manifested to neutral countries, companies in those countries then they are NOT subject to seizure under international law. Yes, the British will argue that "everybody knows" that this stuff is going to eventually end up in Germany but maritime law is pretty clear that you can only judge on where the cargo is manifested too unless you have proof that the "Norwegian Cotton Company" is in fact a German front.
I can really see the US instituting convoys with a token US naval escort taking ships as far as neutral ports. Escorting ships to a combatant port (Entente or Alliance) is a bridge too far IMHO, of course anybody who wants to sail at least part way in convoy flying the US flag is welcome, and going to the UK or Germany on your own is your risk. The RN can institute a close blockade of North Sea ports of Germany, but not the Baltic ports. Close blockade rules are different, but those are not the issue here. For the RN to stop a convoy escorted by US warships on the open seas to check for "contraband" is an act of war, and the UK most assuredly does not want that.
Stopping a ship under escort is, I believe, still legal, as the ship is still a civilian ship. However, an American officer could certainly accompany the boarding party, and make his objections known if an attempt was made to seize the ship in contravention of international law. Such seizure, without legal grounds, has a legal term: Piracy. A token American escort can bear witness to the Royal navy's actions--an should be enough to keep them following the rules.
Incidently, in this time, a destroyer is a poor choice, as destroyers of this era barely have the range to make a one way trip. Older armored cruisers are probably the best choice; they have the range and seakeeping, but are not as blatantly threatening as even an old predreadnought would be.
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