Dread Nought but the Fury of the Seas

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by sts-200, Aug 10, 2019.

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  1. sts-200 Well-Known Member

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    Rumours of War

    The assassination of an Austrian Archduke would trigger a war that had been building for years. However, as the echoes of the shots died away, it was not immediately obvious that would be a world war.
    The Great Powers did not react immediately; ‘We should not be greatly concerned by events in a far-off land of which we know little…’, said one British minister a few weeks later.
    Anglo-German relations remained tense but cordial, while the Americans paid no attention. The governments of Europe followed every development in the courts and ministries of their allies and enemies alike, but the general sense that dangerous event must be handled with care seemed more likely to prevent a war than encourage one. Trade and finance continued virtually uninterrupted, and holidaymakers flocked out of the cities towards the seas and lakes in the long, hot July of 1914.

    Nevertheless, ships began to move as the political frenzy increased.
    There had been a ‘friendship visit’ to Kiel by Royal Navy battleships in early July, closely followed by the festivities and pomp of a Royal review of the fleet at Spithead. However, after the review, the fleet did not disburse. Instead, it headed North.

    Fate would lead to a piece of superficially poor timing turning into a success for Britain. In mid-July, the battleship Reshadieh* sailed from Barrow-in-Furness on her maiden voyage to her new home in Turkey. After her departure, her commander was alerted to the threat of war and chose to coal at Cadiz instead of Gibraltar, out of fear that the British might try to hold the ship if he re-entered British waters. In fact, approaches had been made to the Turkish government to buy her back, but Turkey refused to sell, believing that the ship would be vital to her own interests in the Black Sea and Aegean should there be war.
    In Turkey itself, the battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau had been on an extended cruise to the country, in a show of German might and friendship for the Ottomans. In late July, however, both ships were abruptly ordered to depart and steam West, reaching Gibraltar on the 31st July. Superficially, this was also a gesture of friendship in return for the British visit to Kiel, but the German Admiralty wanted their valuable battlecruiser coaled and away into the Atlantic as soon as possible. In the afternoon of 1st August, the ships sailed away, and despite British efforts to keep an eye on them using the battlecruisers HMS Inflexible and Indomitable, they were lost in the cloak of night.

    Meanwhile in London, a plan to seize the Turkish battleship was proposed when she docked at Gibraltar, but with Anglo-Turkish relations having improved in recent years, and at a high following the delivery of the ship, the Foreign Office advised against it. However, the completion of another battleship for Turkey, the Sultan Osman~, had been delayed at the orders of First Lord Winston Churchill. This and the departure of the Goeben from Turkish waters created an opportunity for the F.O. to seek assurances and guarantees from the Turks. Diplomats were able to point out that Germany was clearly not serious about her relations with Turkey, as evidenced by the abrupt departure of the Goeben, and the inability of the German Empire to guarantee Ottoman possessions in the Near East.

    In the Far East, the battlecruisers HMAS Australia and HMS New Zealand called at Singapore before sailing North, steaming around the North of Borneo and towards Japan. Ostensibly, they were simply showing the flag, reminding other colonial powers that Britain was still ‘taking an interest’ in patrolling the sea lanes.
    As both telegrams and rumours of war hurtled across Europe, the Admiralty in London were more concerned with the likely future movements of the German East Asiatic Squadron.

    Over the next few months, as German attacks on the Russians made spectacular progress, the Turkish government would wonder whether they had made the right choice by declaring their neutrality. They had obtained another battleship (the delayed Osman), and a piece of paper on which Britain effectively did little more than acknowledge the Turks’ right to rule their own Empire. Had their neutrality had been bought too cheaply; perhaps if they had joined the German cause, they too could have been making vast gains at the expense of the Russians?
    No-one could ever be certain.

    Both real-world ships:
    *HMS Erin
    ~HMS Agincourt
     
  2. sts-200 Well-Known Member

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    Hello All,

    Welcome to the start of an alternate naval Great War … and beyond.
    As you can hopefully see so far, it’s more a case of albatrosses flapping their wings rather than butterflies, and there will be very noticeable differences before long.

    Those of you who are coming here from a different story (Ruling the Waves) may recognise a few parts of the first installments. Rest assured events will soon develop, but in a much more focused way than they would have done in an ASB story.

    Hope you all enjoy…
     
  3. Threadmarks: The Dash for Home

    sts-200 Well-Known Member

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    The Dash for Home

    Admiral Souchon could feel the vibration of the engines as the ship began to work up to full speed. Behind him, thick, black smoke belched from the two funnels, although it became almost instantly invisible against the dark western sky.
    Since leaving Gibraltar six days earlier, his two ships had steamed far out into the Atlantic and kept well clear of the shipping lanes while he had decided on the best route home, in accordance with his orders. The Kaiser had given him discretion to attack enemy ships or land facilities in the event of war, but it was not until late on the fifth that he received radio signals telling him that Germany was now at war with Britain, and not just France as his previous information stated.
    His plan to steam to conduct cruiser warfare for a few weeks against French shipping in the Atlantic was now far too risky. Although the number of British targets was immensely greater, so too were the number of Royal Navy warships that could hunt him down. He had therefore decided to return home. Pre-war plans for the replenishment of German Navy raiders were comprehensive, and his ships had been able to partially re-coal from a German merchantman far out at sea before they headed East.

    Souchon knew he was taking a gamble either way. The route North towards Iceland, and across the foggy, storm-ridden Norwegian Sea might have been safer, but it was far longer. His ships would have to coal at least once more if they were to return home that way. Meeting a collier and then coaling at sea was a risky endeavour, while the route would mean passing through hundreds of miles of British-patrolled waters to the north of their homeland.
    He had therefore chosen the other way for his largest and most valuable ship. It was much shorter, but it came within just a few miles of British bases. The Goeben was heading East, straight through the English Channel. He’d hedged his bet, by sending the Breslau via the northern route, where hopefully her smaller fuel needs could be more easily met, and where she might distract the enemy’s attention.

    He looked North, where the dim glow of the pre-dawn light was fast overwhelming the dimmer glow of the lights of English coastal towns. If he chose to head that way, he thought, he could make his name and his ship’s name as famous as any in history. Attacking the home of the Royal Navy at dawn had a glorious appeal, but he knew it would be both futile and suicidal. Most of the British Fleet was far away to the North, and it was unlikely he would do much damaged before the shore defences of Portsmouth would either sink his ship, or cripple it, leaving him to be swarmed by light forces.
    Instead, Goeben turned Northeast, heading for the Dover Strait and home. Two days ago, before they entered the busy shipping lanes leading towards the Channel, canvas had been stretched in front of the ship’s aft mast, creating a false funnel, and above the bridge, giving the ship a profile vaguely resembling a British Indefatigable-class battlecruiser. Yesterday, he had ordered the use of one of the oldest and simplest of ruses; at the ship’s stern, the White Ensign flew stiffly in the breeze.

    He and the ship’s Captain had chosen the route and their timing to maximise the chance of surprise. Overnight, they had maintained a steady 18 knots, far below the ship’s top speed, allowing furnaces to be cleared in sequence ready for the day ahead. They’d been lucky too; at about midnight, they had passed right through the middle of a fishing fleet. The Chief Engineer reported that the port outboard shaft was now making peculiar noises, but they seemed to have escaped an ignominious end by having a net wrapped around their propellers.
    Shortly after 0300, all of the furnaces had been lit and within the hour, Goeben had worked her way up to 24 knots, just as the period of Nautical Twilight dawned and her lookouts could give better warning of other vessels ahead. Fifty minutes later, as the day itself dawned, they were approaching the Dover Strait, and for the first time they were closer to the English coast than the French.

    Admiral Souchon didn’t plan to merely sneak past the British.
     
  4. Jimbo808 Well-Known Member

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    This is really good. I'm not massively knowledgeable about WW1 I can see this is an ottoman neutrality TL what other PODs are being used?
     
  5. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    If this is the only decision the Ottomans make, then they’ve chosen very well.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  6. Trevayne Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, AFIAK they wanted to play off the two sides and stay neutral. Joining the Central Powers was bad for them and bad for the Allies since with the Straits closed they Allies had problems getting supplies to Russia.
     
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  7. Derwit Well-Known Member

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    A neutral Ottoman Empire probebly butterflies the Russian Revolution! OTL it wasn't the lack of food that started the protests in St Petersburg, it was the lack of trains to move the grain about. Trains that would have been supplied by the British if they had been able to deliver them. Russian grain would also have continued to be sold abroad so the Russian economy would have been in slightly better shape. Also the military and logistical effort put in against the Ottomans by the Russians OTL would have instead been better utilised against the Central Powers.

    The British are also big winners. Without the distraction in the middle east the East African campaign would have been quickly resolved and a great deal of treasure and blood would have been saved. Resources which could have instead been used in France, Italy or the Balkans.

    Thinking of the Balkans. Without the Ottomans joining the Central Powers does this effect the decisions of countries like Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania to enter the fray or remain neutral?
     
  8. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    Unless I’ve misread the OP, they’ve done more here than chosen neutrality. They’ve managed to extract a guarantee to their territorial integrity from the one Great Power most likely to affect their possessions. With Britain respecting the OE, no one else can get a “leg up” to do anything, even if they wanted to.
     
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  9. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    AFAISI, this makes the Mediterranean a British lake.

    The British can therefore land troops (largely) unobstructed in Greece, I assume, if they so wish.
     
  10. Trevayne Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much, although Austria-Hungary did have a fleet with IIRC 3-4 dreadnoughts. The French and Italians should be able to handle it though.
     
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  11. Derwit Well-Known Member

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    Or land troups along the southern Aidriatic provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to like up with the Serbs. Of course if Churchill gets involved in the planning of this it could end up as a landing at/near Trieste with the idea of a rapid advance on Vienna to knock the Austrians out of the war in one easy advance (what's the worst that could happen ;).
     
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  12. SenatorChickpea Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm intrigued.
     
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  13. Coulsdon Eagle Well-Known Member

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    The British may not be as big winners as you think. The balance of power in the North Sea has changed. The British are now down two dreadnoughts, while if Goeben gets home the High Seas Fleet is up one battlecruiser. This will lead to interesting decisions over Fisher sending 3 battlecruisers (Princess Royal went to the East Coast / Caribbean) to hunt down von Spee. IIRC after the loss of Audacious and some issues with condensers (there may also have been an accidental collision too) the margin of available capital ships over the High Seas Fleet came pretty near parity in OTL and caused Jellicoe some days of worry.
     
  14. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

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    The only winning move - not to play!
     
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  15. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    Oooh, one more battlecruiser versus two hodgepodges that had all kinds of problems coordinating with the fleet? I’m sure the Admiralty would be quaking in their boots.
     
  16. NoMommsen Donor

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    Sry for possibly being somewhat 'nitpicking' but ... what was ITTL the POD or PODs that lead to the considerable speeding up of completion of Reshadieh ?

    ... and what POD let the Brits give the Ottomans what they firmly denied them IOTL ? "The right to rule their own Empire." aka cancellation of the 'capitulations' and handing over the financial administration of their empire ?
     
  17. VictorLaszlo Well-Known Member

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    Now that naming must have really gone down well in France. ;) And was about as subtle as the post WW2 German Bundesmarine calling a new ship Sedan.
     
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  18. SenatorChickpea Well-Known Member

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    I doubt that the British will have cancelled the capitulations. A guarantee against Russian encroachment might be valuable, and possibly a tacit word that if the Sublime Porte was to selectively default on some foreign debts (ie, German and Austrian ones) than the Entente won't protest too much.
     
  19. Errolwi Well-Known Member

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    OTL HMS New Zealand returned to home (UK) waters after her tour of the Dominions in December 1913, rather than staying in the Pacific as originally planned. She was at the First Battle of Heligoland Bight.
     
  20. Errolwi Well-Known Member

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    British Home Fleet also down the BC HMS New Zealand. Although it's plausible that HMAS Australia escorts the troops collecting German Pacific possessions (as the Australian Government insisted OTL), leaving her sister to more effectively hunt von Spee and preempting Coronel/Falklands.
     
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