Germany does not invade Belguim in 1914. What does Britain do?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Galba Otho Vitelius, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    A Franco-Russian Entente has no realistic chance to defeat a German-Austro-Hungarian alliance.

    Which is why French diplomacy would not so easily give up on Britain. "Perfidious Albion" it might be, but it is the only other major power in lay which can supply the strength France needs to counter Germany.

    France and Russia cannot outbuild Britain at sea for the foreseeable future, since both must divert most of their military spending to their armies, since they both share lengthy land borders with the Reich.
  2. sloreck Grunt Bear

    Aug 4, 2008
    Britain did not "panic" when the Germans cleaned the French clock in 1870-71 and you now had a united Germany. Certainly the Foreign Office were upset by this but you did not see Britain taking any significant actions to support France other than some voluntary private things like medical folks and charities. Even as a "friendly" neutral, there is only so much the UK can do. The longer they are not fighting, the more Germany can do to import and stockpile key raw materials or manufactured goods, slip out raiders to prey on French flag commerce, and ensure overseas possessions are reinforced to the point they can protect themselves against any French attacks and/or serve as forward bases. If Britain decides to join in in the spring of 1915 when the French have been battered, and the resumption of major combat in the east shows the Germans making significant advances it is too late - and convincing the people of the UK to do this will not be easy. Many will say if fighting to make sure Germany does not win why have we waited until now, when it is so late in the game.
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  3. NoMommsen Donor

    Feb 7, 2016
    Deep down Dark Deutschland
    And here we're closing slightly in to one of my "pet objects" :
    the Gladstone treaties of 1870

    These two identical treaties with France as well as Prussia to guarantee belgian integrity "guaranteed" France as well as Prussia unanimous british military "partnership" against whoever might violate belgian integrity.
    - If France violates Belgium => Britain would side with Prussia
    - If Prussia violates Belgium => Britain would side with France

    I could envisage, that Belgium would be quite pleased and mybe might even bring up such a proposal in a prolonged time without hostilities (the about 2 weeks/12 days France needed for proper mobilisation. You remember ? 14th day from begin of mobilisation hostilities ahve to commence according to the franco-russian alliance).
  4. sloreck Grunt Bear

    Aug 4, 2008
    @NoMommsen : Interesting idea. The initial treaty concerning Belgian neutrality did basically say that the parties were bound to protect Belgian neutrality no matter who attacked, although how not specified. In 1870 I expect a treaty guaranteeing British entry in to a war on the continent would be a difficult sell in the UK. Britain really really worked to avoid those sorts of guarantees.
  5. BooNZ Well-Known Member

    Feb 4, 2011
    I know you are aware of at least one German war game that assumed Belgium belligerance, presumably so the Germans could pretend to fight full French armies, instead of the three Frenchmen and horse that the Ardennes infrastructure could support.

    I'm struggling to reconcile the above.

    Can you please clarify the military advantage of abandoning the advantage of the defensive to fight a more numerious foe with strained communications and logisitcs at breaking point? Is that you Joffre?

    Yes, I think Joffre's offensive doctrine becomes less tennable as his first tier troops are gradually replaced by those who lack the discipline to execute his vision. Joffre is likly to persist with his meaningless offensives until he is left with a 2nd tier army - literally.

    Most neutrals entered WWI with the expectation they were joining the winning team, yet people persist in suggesting Johnny 'fairplay' Britain would be motivated to join an already losing side to even things up. I would suggest the opposite is more likely. In this scenairo it would be clear by the end of 1914 that the Franco-Russian alliance was doomed and the British would be encouraging France to throw Russia under the bus before Russia collapsed or reached a separate peace of its own - thereby preserving the status quo in the west. All hail, Britain the peace maker!
  6. BooNZ Well-Known Member

    Feb 4, 2011
    I think Willhelm would be too busy choosing outfits for various victory parades in eastern europe to be bothered by English dithering.
    Unfortunately, the politics get in the way of your logic. The hawks do not have the numbers (without a black swan) to declare war immediately and the doves don't want to collapse the government (triggering resignations of Grey and then PM) by immediatley declaring neutrality.
    Probably not. Even when the Germans were planning for victory during the war, they were looking to appease British interests in relation to Belgium to avoid a future trade war.
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  7. NoMommsen Donor

    Feb 7, 2016
    Deep down Dark Deutschland
    Nevertheless, Gladstone in 1870 managed to do exactly that.

    In a sense, he did it for just that reason so often named as the "true" reason for Grey - and the british paliament - in 1914 :
    preservation of the belgian ports and coast

    ... and it seems he rendered the risk of french channel ports to be occupied and used by the germans/prussians rather small. Possibly because with the named treaties he had made it clear to everyone, that Britain has a "keen eye" on the channel coast.
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  8. Riain Well-Known Member

    Feb 17, 2007
    I was considering less the east first that is so wrongly beloved and more about the offensive options that were considered before arriving at the SP, because it's offensives that win wars. The whole point of the SP was because the Franco-German border was strongly fortified it would be easier to to outflank it through Belgium than to try to smash through it.

    That this invasion of Belgium is wrongly blamed for bringing Britain into the war needs to be addressed. The answer to that question is that Germany assumed Britain was going to war anyway and if that's the case then the diplomatic repercussions of the Belgian invasion aren't nearly as important as the military advantages gained by outflanking the French border fortifications rather than going through them.
  9. Aphrodite Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2016
    Actually a Franco-Russian victory is pretty easy even with departures in August 1914. The simplest

    Joffre pulls an army from Alsace and puts it north of the French 5th. Avoid the early offensives and fall back on the fortress line. this is essentially what he did OtL after the Battle of the Frontiers. Do it before hand and France more than makes up for the loss of the BEF. Several opportunities will emerge. If instead of pressuring the Russians into a premature offensive in East Prussia he tells them to wait because he can buy them the time, victory is the most likely outcome

    France and Russia were already outbuilding the British in 1914. Russia had 7 dreadnoughts and 4 battlecruisers building, France 8 dreadnoughts to Britain's 10 dreaadnoughts and 1 Battlecruisers.

    But we digress. The thread assumes WWI on schedule and the question is British intervention without Belgium. No matter who wins, their military spending is likely to shift to their navies as the land borders are solved. In a post war world, Britain's best hope would be a Franco-Italian-Japanese-Anglo alliance to contain Russia rather than a Germany supreme on the continent

    The Kaiser disagrees with you. He saw avoiding Belgium as a recipe for defeat.

    As to the hawks in Britain not having the votes, that is dubious as well. Since everyone knows the Germans are going to invade Belgium, they act accordingly. the German invasion of Belgium will bring even the biggest waverers on board, so why rush the issue? Let the Germans invade Belgium and unite the country.

    If Germany doesn't invade Belgium, then the issue is forced when the Germans invade Russia and France asks Britain to join an ultimatum demanding they withdraw. Since the hawks will still be able to paint the Germans as the aggressors who threaten first Russia, then France and then Britain, they'll likely have the votes

    As to the Kaiser and Britain:

    The Kaiser almost declared war on Britain when the British put the French coast under the Royal Navy's protection. Given that the Kaiser had spent his entire reign trying to build a bigger fleet than Britain and that he would easily be able to do so after defeating France and Russia, there's no reason to doubt he would do so. As to some appeasement offers during the war, they are mere scraps of paper like Belgium's neutrality. Of no importance against the interests of the Reich
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  10. BooNZ Well-Known Member

    Feb 4, 2011
    Actually WWI illustrates ill conceived offensives clearly do not win wars, as predicted by Moltke the Elder, Scheffien and established German counter attack strategy/ doctrines. Again, one of the key advantages for Germany in a late abandoning the SP plan is it gifts the initiative to the Russians and French, and removes any temptation for the Germans to go charging immediately into artillary barrages or machine gun fire...

    Forcing France onto the defensive, when the alternative is the French being forced to attack German defensive positions is not exactly smart. In 1914 the only hope for a decisive offensive is if you can arrange a mismatch and for Germany that can only be found in the east.

    Please, don't let us hold you back. We are already on page 10, the floor is yours... can share it with Aphrodite.
    In the first instance it is apparent Moltke J simply ignored diplomatic considerations and the SP was actually a military liability that also ignored tradtional German military doctrine. A far superior military advantage would have been gained by forcing the French to attack German defensive positions in the west.

    No. Joffre chose to continue to attack German defensive positions despite the vast majority of the German army heading west. It was the German invasion of Belgium that forced Joffre to abandon his offensives along the battle of the Frontiers. With no logical POD you are handwaving away established French military doctrine in its entirely, something even the Battle of Marne failed to do. Similarly, with no logical POD, you are handwaving away decades of Franco-Russian military co-ordination and treaties that even savage maulings at the hands of the German army failed to do.

    You are ignoring a couple of facts. Firstly, Germany was the most technologically advanced state in europe and it took longer than a decade for the German Navy to narrow the qualitative gap with the Royal Navy (construstion speed, ship quality, naval traditon and training). In the real world, challenging the Royal navy requires much more than a hand wave. Secondly, Britain was ultimately brought to its knees by uboats, not dreadnaughts.

    Willhelm was not as simple as he is often portrayed, but I would not cite him as an authority on military strategy... or race relations.

    Did you bother to read the heading of this thread?
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  11. AJE Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2016
    Anchorage, Alaska
    That's not entirely true, a defensive counterattack in the west might have crippled the French Army so badly that they would be incapable of stopping Germany from pushing right through the Verdun-Toul-Epinal-Belfort fortress line. But that still means not invading Belgium, in fact it means not invading either Russia or France in the first few weeks, and most importantly it means at first allowing the French and Russians onto German soil without making a counterattack, as Schlieffen's 2-front plans called for. That last part in particular is what the politicians in Germany were unwilling to allow, and it was what Rupprecht was unwilling to follow OTL. So in the end the invasion of Belgium happened, and even when 2 French armies did march into Lorraine Rupprecht drove them out with a frontal attack at the Battle of Morhange instead of drawing them in further to cut them off.
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  12. Riain Well-Known Member

    Feb 17, 2007
    a) You're dead set on the most ill conceived offensive ever; the one into Russia in 1914.
    b) how would anyone know their offensives were ill conceived in 1914?

    7 larger and better equipped armies fighting 5 1/2 smaller armies with a drastic shortage of indirect fire artillery launching a flanking attack from an unexpected is a mismatch.

    Diplomacy is not Moltke's purview, he was told who the enemies were and made a campaign plan accordingly.

    a) And what, pray tell, would that do for Germany in the course of a campaigning season?
    b) What sort of dickhead leaves the initiative in the hands of the enemy?
  13. Aphrodite Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2016

    Joffre definitely retreats to the fortress line and pulls an Army out of Alssce to create the sixth army. He also orders a retreat to the Marne. You confuse "defensive" with being passive. There is no sitting in trenches and waiting along the whole line. I have never understood your concept of trench warfare which violate all the rules of war. No commander would ever conduct himself in the way you suggest

    The French and Russians are outbuilding Britain by 80%. Many earlier British dreadnoughts are becoming obsolete and they are way inferior to what the French and Russians are building. Since France has a worldwide network of bases and can't be easily blockaded, she represents are far more challenging enemy than Germany could

    The Kaiser's military training and knowledge of the military situation in 1914 is astronomically superior to yours or mine. I wouldn't dismiss his opinions without strong proof to the contrary especially when every senior military officer on the continent

    And yes I did read the title of the thread. Did you read the entire post I wrote and deliberately quote me out of context? Because it was clear that I was referring to the situation OTL. Everyone know that Germany will invade Belgium and that the wavers will come aboard.

    Now read what I wrote would happen in the TTl. Something about France asking Britain to join an ultimatum

    This will never work. First, the French and Russians would wait until Russia completed its mobilization. The hammer is likely to fall on the Austrians and the Germans would be stuck trying to attack two fully mobilized enemies

    All French attacks OTL are defeated by superior numbers which wouldn't be the case in your scenario
  14. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

    Apr 21, 2016
    OTL, Russia invaded Germany, not the other way around, in 1914.

    An early POD, probably in 1913, where the German war plan is to attack Russia as soon as possible in the war, and the deployment and war preparation plans change accordingly, would produce the Germans invading Russia first. This POD of course has more butterflies and changes the military situation. For example, there is no new bridge across the Rhine but the railroads in West and East Prussia are significantly upgraded with the money that had been spent on the bridge.

    However, with a late POD, where the Germans decided on not invading Belgium at the last possible minute, or a POD where a contingency plan to do something different is not destroyed, so it can be brought out and implemented in August 1914, would not change the fact that it would be the Russians invading East Prussia and trying to invade Silesia, not the Germans invading any part of the Russian empire. It would take time to redeploy the 1st and 2nd Armies and the railroads in the East would still be an issue. OK, Conrad still attacks but come on.
  15. BooNZ Well-Known Member

    Feb 4, 2011
    Sorry, I did not consider counter attacks to be in the same class as a general offensives against established defensive positions. Indeed, the counterattack dominated German military doctrine in the decades following the Franco-Prussian war.

    Actually no. The absence of the Germans in Belgium would likely result in the Germans initially utilising well established counter attack doctrines.

    With the benefit of hindsight, most of us recognise any offensive before 1916 was ill conceived, unless there was a total mismatch like the eastern front in 1915.

    Actually, 68 German divisions against 62 French Divisions, 6 Belgian divisions and 6 British Divisions. The German invasion of Belgium ensured the Germans were outnumbered and ultimately had to fight at a disadvantage due to strained logistics. The shortfall of french indirect artillery was far less critical on defense than it was on attack.

    War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means. Clausewitz

    [post 125] The immediate destruction of Russia's two best armies, saving the majority of the A-H pre-war army, promptly liberating fortresses and territory of Russian Poland and ensuring Italy's neutrality is the bare bones starting point...

    Molke the Elder and much of Schlieffen's work advocated counter attack, which by its nature leaves the initiative in the hands of the enemy.
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  16. marathag Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Once War was declared, they didn't wait, Attacks started August 7th with the Battles of the Frontiers, and 10 days later towards East Prussia, three days later against East Galicia. Russian Mobilization started on July 30th.

    hundreds of thousands of Russian troops were not yet fully equipped due to lack of transport on the 17th, despite collection of private horses and wagons, along with the few trucks and autos, starting August 1st.
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  17. Anchises Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2017
    Where are you getting this ? In every WW1 thread you have a completely different perception of reality than most other users.

    I don't understand your scenario. So Russia and France wait until Russia is fully mobilized.

    Germany deploys 2-3 armies (lets assume 2 so that the West is strongly defended) to the East and the rest to the Western Front with a reserve for a possible French offensive into Belgium.

    Germany starts fielding another Army and Russia and France attack when both are fully mobilized.

    The attack into Eastern Prussia would be a disaster with 2 defending German armies. Either one or even both Russian armies are destroyed. This would alleviate pressure from A-H because Russia would be forced to shift at least one army to the German front.

    So there is no way that A-H breaks and Germany has enough troops to better press their advantage during the Munition crisis later on.

    And I don't understand how France is supposed to threaten Germany. If they avoid an attack through Belgium they are limited to the narrow border region. Given their performance IOTL I don't see how they would break through here.

    If they attack Belgium we are probably going to see some nasty diplomatical consequences and I still doubt that the French Army could break the German reserve armies who would rush to Belgiums aid.

    How is removing Britain from the occasion and assuming a more defensive stance the recipt for a German disaster.

    France is basically free to execute their offensive plans which is bound to be a disaster and Russia isn't going to perform better than IOTL but with stronger opposition.

    Without an earlier and wide reaching POD France and Russia need to roll a series of sixes to avoid a disaster in 1914. Crushing Germany is deep in ASB territory from my PoV.

    Given the population and the military expenditures Germany has more available potential. Even if Russia and France significantly raise military investments Germany has simply more breathing room left to intensify the arms race.

    The scenario here discussed is no German wank. A German wank would be "no naval arms race", " Germany raises conscription and military spending to french levels" and a more balanced strategy with enough troops in the East.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
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  18. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

    Apr 12, 2016
    Without the UK, and by pre-condition avoiding invading Belgium, I think the war can still be a meat grinder in the West and devastating in the East but Russia is the big loser. Without Ottoman belligerency, another thing I try to hold to, Russia can better sort her logistics and that gives her staying power until her morale breaks, imposing a different attrition war on the CPs. The going in Russia is awful so big sweeping invasion is harder to paint and we have no fall of France, just a stagnant line of defense that puts the brunt of war on German territory in A-L. I agree that here France and Russia cannot defeat Germany, the war should hurt Germany, stress A-H to breaking, cripple France and break Russia.

    And this is the wildcard for me, with Germany showing more prowess in the East, the Ottomans should be encouraged to join the carving, it takes masterful diplomacy to keep the Ottomans sidelined yet helpful and maybe British pressures are enough, likewise with Italy, neutral Britain is pressuring these two to stay out of it As beneficial as a Caucasus front might be, closing the Straights is enough, as the Ottomans go to war they expect cash and prizes that Germany does not prefer to give. Avoiding the CP-wank is trickier but I think better for the post-war settling up. I would agree that initially Germany grasps the straws but if the opening battles versus Russia go as well as 8th Army showed then this Germany might be less pressured and with up to four of her own Armies prowling in the East the carving off of European Russia is proceeding at a heady clip for Berlin.
  19. High Plains Drifter Well-Known Member

    Apr 20, 2011
    Washington DC Metropolitan Area
    So with Belgium not being invaded on August 4th, what do they do with their field army? Do they continue to mobilize? How fully mobilized where they OTL at this point?

    And what do Albert and the Government do diplomatically?
  20. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    Oh, even without the British, Germany could not win the war quickly. It would take at least a year or two, and lots of casualties.

    But win, she would.
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