Alternate Battle of Lorraine 1914

How will TTL battle of Lorraine end?

  • Germany wins and then invades France.

    Votes: 26 34.7%
  • Stalemate along more or less the existing border.

    Votes: 34 45.3%
  • France wins and advances to the Rhineland.

    Votes: 15 20.0%

  • Total voters
    75
I voted for a French victory and advance but I'd add a caveat: The Germans are perfectly able (and I believe willing, more on that below) to trade territory for time, potentially drawing the French into a pocket where they can reenact the battle of Cannae, so the French "Victory" can be quickly turned into a trap.

I could be wrong, but I think the OTL plan for the border with France involved just this sort of idea, pulling the French into German territory while the main thrust came in through Belgium. TTL there is no Belgian front, so the Germans can draw in and then bite at their leisure with their advantages in railways and artillery ranges, then repeat as needed if/when the French choose to retreat and try again.
 
The map is to large to upload but i found the original source (warning! large pdf)and the report it comes from
Thank you for the map! I made a cut out of this. Interesting how close the iron industry was to the border, on both the French and German sides. For example, French industry in the Orne Valley near Briey was within range of the fortress artillery (< 10 km) of 'Feste Lothringen'.

During the battle, the industry will be badly damaged, I expect. But Germany can always import iron ore from Sweden. Also via Narvik, because there is no British naval blockade.

Ironorebasin_Lorraine.jpg
 
During the battle, the industry will be badly damaged, I expect. But Germany can always import iron ore from Sweden. Also via Narvik, because there is no British naval blockade.
if i remember correctly there are prewar statistics in the report for the origin of french and german iron-ore. A lot of the ore mined in french lorraine went to german foundries in the Ruhrgebiet, so germany was extremly dependant on this region, but on the other hand germany also had a far larger steelmaking industry/capacity. I would guess that spanish iron ore would also increase in importance for both sides, so spanish diplomany might actually play a role.
 
The French would deploy 3 of their active armies (4th, 2nd, and the left wing of 1st, West to East) between the Moselle and the Vosges attacking North toward Lorraine as well as part of the 3rd Army, which would invest/screen Metz and cover 4th Army's left wing with 3 corps. In total that's 28 active divisions between Metz and the Bruche, with another 9 reserve divisions in the rear. 5th Army would attack between Metz and the Luxembourg border along with part of 3rd army, 12 divisions, only entering Luxembourg if the Germans did first. Plan XVII below for reference:

archives_SHDBG_Q_in4-000004-01-1-C_0008_2.jpg


Germany would deploy 4 armies (1st - 4th) in the East and 3 (5th-7th) in the West. 34 active/reserve divisions would deploy in the West (17 Corps) while 43 would deploy East (21 Corps + 1 Division). There would also be 6 Ersatz divisions floating about which would probably go West, so as OP says you'd have an almost 50-50 even split of 43 divisions East, 40 divisions West.

The German initial mobilization would be 5th Army with 5 corps from Metz to the Belgian border, 6th and 7th Armies with 10 Corps between Metz and Strasbourg, and 2 separate Corps in Upper Alsace around Mulhouse to await the arrival of the Italian Army. The German intention was to remain flexible and concentrate the majority of its forces against the main French blow. Luxembourg would be invaded with cavalry and VII Corps would occupy the Moselle, Our, and Sur bridges leading into the country.

Under these circumstances, the main fighting will occur between the German 6th/7th Armies and the French 4th/2nd/1st Armies between Metz and Strasbourg. Lets not forget that, IOTL, the German victory in Lorraine was achieved with a localized numerical superiority (7-8 German Corps vs 6 French) because Joffre had already shifted his main point of effort to the Ardennes. With the equally hefty material strength committed to both parties, it seems likely the frontline will devolve at the very least into a back-and-forth push as it did IOTL, with the Germans withdrawing across their border to better defensive positions even if they achieve initial local success rather than overstretching themselves against superior numbers.

Moltke hoped for a full on battle of destruction by enveloping French forces between Metz and Strasburg. This seems unlikely to me, simply because of the density of forces involved (37 French divisions and at least 20 German) and the French 3rd Army providing support on the 4th Army's left. 1st Army's right seems like a natural place to deliver a painful defeat, but the French left doesn't offer similar opportunities.

From Metz to the Belgian border, the Metz-Thionville fortress complex will halt French forces along the Moselle while 5th Army is counterattacked by a smaller German force in Luxembourg. With the French able to rally on their fortresses in the Longwy region and possessing superior numbers, a German pursuit from Luxembourg or attack across the Moselle seems unlikely with the main battle unfolding further East.

By the end of August the French Army will have cleared out most of its riff-raff commanders and will have superior numbers (67+ divisions to 40) across the front, more than enough to push the Germans back across the border and perhaps even occupy parts of Upper Alsace and Luxembourg. Eventually shell shortages by the beginning of October as well as the fortress complex of Metz-Thionville will put an end to the fighting, at which point France will have to reorganize its army and industry for a new offensive.

We should recall that while the French Army's performance wasn't its best in August 1914 IOTL, its defeats occurred in circumstances where it was outnumbered operationally and strategically outmaneuvered. A few weeks later it inflicted a major defeat on the German Army and then fought it to a standstill from the Somme to the Channel. A battle in Lorraine would allow the French army to fight exactly as planned and have clear operational superiority in numbers. I think a strategic stalemate on the German side of the border is most likely, but it would be unrealistic to discount the possibility of a major French success which attracts additional German reserves.
 

NoMommsen

Donor
Interesting maps are always welcome! :)
Well ... if you're interested of maps of OTL regarding the war ... below

Part 6. and 7. army sector.jpg
is a diminished copy opf a part of the map to be found here regarding the operations of the 6th and 7th army early on IOTL (it's dll on the right side as i.e. a pdf.file). The complete map (only for the 6th and 7th army sector) has a size of 18.8 GB.
You might find it rather small scale and highly detailed as many of the maps available from this source in general are.

Regarding i.e. the railway and logisical situation in the different theaters the last volume listed on the above link ("Das Deutsche Feldeisenbahnwesen" (The German Fielrailwaysdepartment) is between many other charts and maps able to provicd you with an (almost) complete map of all available railways you're fgree to download as well to find all the wee details. ;-)
DL-are is to be found on the right :
"Zitieren und Nachnutzen" (click on the +)​
1. section is the whole volume​
2. section the "map"​
3. section an image as presented (and undetailed)​


The only concerns for Germany is that her Lorraine iron mines are unusable and the nitrates discovered in Antwerp are not available in this TL.
This stuff would very likely simply ne bought of as Rathenau was comtemplating to talk about with Falkenhayn as the responsible war minister on 2nd to 4th August before the UK decvlared war upon Germany.
 
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Thank you for the map! I made a cut out of this. Interesting how close the iron industry was to the border, on both the French and German sides. For example, French industry in the Orne Valley near Briey was within range of the fortress artillery (< 10 km) of 'Feste Lothringen'.

During the battle, the industry will be badly damaged, I expect. But Germany can always import iron ore from Sweden. Also via Narvik, because there is no British naval blockade.

It sounds like we are thinking the British will stay out. I know this has been argued for days on this board if that happens or not.

Regardless, some flash points seem to be looming:

Navally:
Goeben can continue to lurk off French North Africa in this TL, hoping to impede the transfer of troops from French North Africa, with the British Neutral, are the British just going to let that happen????
Will the French fleet break the Austrian blockade of Montenegro as per OTL without the British.
The various German cruisers and AMCs on the high seas can cause a lot of damage to the French in this TL, would German orders go out to restrain this kind of activity to avoid annoying the British?

Diplomatically:
August 6th rolls around and the French are at war. Do the British demand limited war aims out of Germany??? Its hard to imagine the British standing by while the Germans crush Russia. Sometime about mid September at the latest, after the French stall, and the Russians are driven out of Poland. it seems the British are going to say, alright you Austria can occupy Belgrade, flip the Austrian government to something more friendly to you. But this needs to settle up and end or we have to come in.
 
Should also be recalled that the cabinet was much more amenable to a “limited” naval/colonial war against Germany without deploying the BEF to the continent. A fair number still expected this to be the extent of the UK’s participation in the conflict even after Belgium was invaded.

Without a German invasion of Belgium the cabinet decides on a compromise position where the UK declares war sometime in early-mid August but doesn’t commit forces to the continent (At least initially). With how firmly the “war party” was committed to conflict at all costs and the willingness of pro-peace Liberals of the cabinet to compromise on a limited war even pre-Belgium, this is the likely outcome. So Germany does face the constraints of a blockade.
 
After the Germans had marched themselves silly and were at the end of logistics

If logistics and exhaustion were the only reason Germany lost at the Marne, they would've smashed the French Army a month later during the "Race to the Sea" when they had fallen back on their railheads, regrouped, and attacked the French left wing while the French were themselves exhausted and running short on supplies. They'd done the same in the Ardennes, shattering the French in a frontal head-to-head collision. That they failed where just a month and a half earlier they'd succeeded handily speaks to the qualitative improvement of the French Army.

For that matter, we should recall that the French Army was also exhausted and badly short of material at the Marne as a result of a month of fighting and retreat. Herwig has many illustrative passages on this:

During a tour of the front of Third and Fourth armies on 30 August, [Joffre] had noted red trousers faded to the color of “pale brick,” coats “ragged and torn,” shoes “caked with mud,” the soldiers’ eyes “cavernous in faces dulled by exhaustion,” and their faces dark with “many days’ growth of beard.” Twenty days of campaigning had aged them “as many years.”
And:
In all fairness to the soldiers and cavalrymen of the BEF, French Fifth Army, and the French cavalry corps, much had already been asked, and was still being asked, of them. After days of marching to the front in mid-August, they had charged the enemy—only to have had to endure weeks of miserable retreat under a broiling sun and along dusty roads. Then they had about-faced and held off an enemy victorious and confident. Since 6 September, they had attacked yet again. They had suffered horrendous casualties. Tens of thousands were dead or wounded as well as ill from foot sores, heat exhaustion, sunstroke, thirst, and dysentery. Especially Jean-François Sordet’s cavalry corps; having covered a thousand kilometers since the war began, it simply was too exhausted to push on ahead. Christian Mallet, a trooper with Colonel Félix Robillot’s 22d Dragoons, later recalled the suffocating heat, gnawing hunger, intolerable thirst, and utter fatigue of those days. “The exhausted men, covered with a layer of black dust adherent to their sweat, looked like devils. The tired horses, no longer off-saddled, had large open sores on their back.”74 I

While the German Army certainly may have been worse off, the French were exhausted and bloody from a month of brutal defeats, long marches, and heavy losses. The Marne wasn't won because the Germans ran out of supplies and retreated voluntarily - it was won because the German Army was defeated in combat and forced to withdraw. Even then, the battle was a close-run thing.
 
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Should also be recalled that the cabinet was much more amenable to a “limited” naval/colonial war against Germany without deploying the BEF to the continent. A fair number still expected this to be the extent of the UK’s participation in the conflict even after Belgium was invaded.

Without a German invasion of Belgium the cabinet decides on a compromise position where the UK declares war sometime in early-mid August but doesn’t commit forces to the continent (At least initially). With how firmly the “war party” was committed to conflict at all costs and the willingness of pro-peace Liberals of the cabinet to compromise on a limited war even pre-Belgium, this is the likely outcome. So Germany does face the constraints of a blockade.
This makes a lot of sense, August 6th, the British present an ultimatum to Germany/Austria to stop action outside their borders and commit to a peace conference or they DOW in 48 hours. Doing this immediately would prevent the Germans from stacking stuff in the colonies and fitting out raiders and having them lurk on the high seas until a later DOW. Its almost necessary to do it immediately.

In practice, they only go after German colonies and blockade, probably delaying later the OTL such steps as declaring food contraband, since the Germans have a little more sympathy not invading Belgium.

(And importing Nitrates from Chile, and importing other strategic supplies is out of the question). But Belgium is a blockade hole as well now on the other hand.
 
My apologies for coming in so late but Osman's ban depressed me too much. There are numerous problems with this scenario:

1) German occupation of Luxembourg. Even if we make the rather dubious assumption that Britain stays neutral in an invasion of Russia, there is little doubt that an invasion of Luxembourg will bring Britain in. Harcourt notes in his diary that the peach MPs were in such disarray that they couldn't meet on August 1 because so many wanted to declare war over Luxembourg

2) There are no reasons for Joffre to launch an attack on August 6. Plan XVII was a plan of deployment not a plan of campaign. There are over 8 variants to it depending on whether Britain sends he BEF or not, Italy declares neutrality or not and whether the Germans go through Belgium or not. While Joffre is an aggressive commander, he isn't blindly offensive His orders to 1st and 2nd Armies are to advance into Alsace to fix German forces there (keep Moltke from moving them). He orders them to entrench nightly.
He holds 3 and 4th armies back allowing the German offensive to extend itself and gives the 5thArmy complete freedom as to where and when it would launch an attack.

His early attacks are designed to disrupt an invasion of France. Since there is no invasion to disrupt, he has no need to attack. In all his communications with the Russians he stresses the need for simultaneous offensives. That the Russians need to hurry to draw the Germans off the French. Since in this scenario, the Russians are withdrawing and the Germans are marching into Poland, Joffre can wait until the Russians are ready- about M30.

3) This will give Joffre time to bring up the 15 divisions he has assigned to the fortresses and coastal defenses. Since the Germans aren't attacking, these can join the offensive. He also will want to wait for the BEF.

4) Sheer geography dictates that this force violates Belgium for the same reasons the Germans do- there isn't enough space. Since the British are already in, there isn't any need to avoid it.


5) When faced with a joint Anglo-French request to transit their territory south of the Meuse, the Belgians may very well agree:

The Anglo-French are offering to avoid the heart of Belgium
the Germans are deep in Poland unable to help
The invasion of a fellow neutral is not to be taken likely
There will be a joint offer of evacuation after the war which would be far more valuable than merely relying on German good graces

If the Belgians allow the Anglo-French through, they are likely to join the attack as the Germans will consider this an act of war and treat Belgium as an enemy anyway. Moltke wargammed this exact scenario- that the French would enter Belgium with the connivance of the Belgians and that Belgium should be considered hostile in this situation.

6) Finally there is Italy. The Italians first offer to join the Entente in mid-September after the German failure on the Marne. They get into haggling with the Russians over the Adriatic and take their time. With the Germans and Austrians in Poland, the Russians might not haggle so much and just sign off on the deal bringing in Italy early

The most likely scenario, therefore is the rapid collapse of the German Western Armies with the Anglo French on the Rhine within weeks of the attack
 
My apologies for coming in so late but Osman's ban depressed me too much. There are numerous problems with this scenario:

1) German occupation of Luxembourg. Even if we make the rather dubious assumption that Britain stays neutral in an invasion of Russia, there is little doubt that an invasion of Luxembourg will bring Britain in. Harcourt notes in his diary that the peach MPs were in such disarray that they couldn't meet on August 1 because so many wanted to declare war over Luxembourg

2) There are no reasons for Joffre to launch an attack on August 6. Plan XVII was a plan of deployment not a plan of campaign. There are over 8 variants to it depending on whether Britain sends he BEF or not, Italy declares neutrality or not and whether the Germans go through Belgium or not. While Joffre is an aggressive commander, he isn't blindly offensive His orders to 1st and 2nd Armies are to advance into Alsace to fix German forces there (keep Moltke from moving them). He orders them to entrench nightly.
He holds 3 and 4th armies back allowing the German offensive to extend itself and gives the 5thArmy complete freedom as to where and when it would launch an attack.

His early attacks are designed to disrupt an invasion of France. Since there is no invasion to disrupt, he has no need to attack. In all his communications with the Russians he stresses the need for simultaneous offensives. That the Russians need to hurry to draw the Germans off the French. Since in this scenario, the Russians are withdrawing and the Germans are marching into Poland, Joffre can wait until the Russians are ready- about M30.

3) This will give Joffre time to bring up the 15 divisions he has assigned to the fortresses and coastal defenses. Since the Germans aren't attacking, these can join the offensive. He also will want to wait for the BEF.

4) Sheer geography dictates that this force violates Belgium for the same reasons the Germans do- there isn't enough space. Since the British are already in, there isn't any need to avoid it.


5) When faced with a joint Anglo-French request to transit their territory south of the Meuse, the Belgians may very well agree:

The Anglo-French are offering to avoid the heart of Belgium
the Germans are deep in Poland unable to help
The invasion of a fellow neutral is not to be taken likely
There will be a joint offer of evacuation after the war which would be far more valuable than merely relying on German good graces

If the Belgians allow the Anglo-French through, they are likely to join the attack as the Germans will consider this an act of war and treat Belgium as an enemy anyway. Moltke wargammed this exact scenario- that the French would enter Belgium with the connivance of the Belgians and that Belgium should be considered hostile in this situation.

6) Finally there is Italy. The Italians first offer to join the Entente in mid-September after the German failure on the Marne. They get into haggling with the Russians over the Adriatic and take their time. With the Germans and Austrians in Poland, the Russians might not haggle so much and just sign off on the deal bringing in Italy early

The most likely scenario, therefore is the rapid collapse of the German Western Armies with the Anglo French on the Rhine within weeks of the attack

To be fair to the Germans, retracting your neutrality to allow one alliance to transition your country to attack another country is already for all intents and purposes a declaration of war. I also have my doubts on the Belgians just agreeing to fall in line so handily.
 
To be fair to the Germans, retracting your neutrality to allow one alliance to transition your country to attack another country is already for all intents and purposes a declaration of war. I also have my doubts on the Belgians just agreeing to fall in line so handily.
It is but so is demanding free passage like they did OTL. The issue is what happens to the Germans and this scenario screams defeat big time
 
To be fair to the Germans, retracting your neutrality to allow one alliance to transition your country to attack another country is already for all intents and purposes a declaration of war. I also have my doubts on the Belgians just agreeing to fall in line so handily.
It is but so is demanding free passage like they did OTL. The issue is what happens to the Germans and this scenario screams defeat big time
I doubt it, any proposal would be know by spies and measures can be done, if anything Belgium now is an entete power
 
Plan XVII below for reference
Thanks, you showed me this map before. I used it as inspiration for my map in the opening post :)

Germany would deploy 4 armies (1st - 4th) in the East and 3 (5th-7th) in the West. 34 active/reserve divisions would deploy in the West (17 Corps) while 43 would deploy East (21 Corps + 1 Division). There would also be 6 Ersatz divisions floating about which would probably go West, so as OP says you'd have an almost 50-50 even split of 43 divisions East, 40 divisions West.
You are quoting the 'aufmarsch II ost' plan from 1913? As discussed earlier, I'm still missing the 8th army command here ;) I assume it will be available in 1914. But I did put 20 army corps (40 divisions) on the map in the OP, so we're basically in agreement.

With the French able to rally on their fortresses in the Longwy region
Which fortresses do you mean exactly? The 17th century fortress of Longwy was no longer in use in 1914 AFAIK.
 
There are no reasons for Joffre to launch an attack on August 6. Plan XVII was a plan of deployment not a plan of campaign.
Other than the Treaty with Russia that both should attack ASAP.
Germany going in, or standing fast on the Belgian border does not change the timing for the French advance into A-L
 
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