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. BooNZ Well-Known Member

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    There is nothing in Balfour's letter to his sister to suggest Britain would enter the war without provacation or valid CB. As previously explained, the Conservatives and the hawks were working on the correct assumption the Germans were intent on a wider invasion of Belgium, which in this scenario is no longer valid. There are multiple communications received from the Conservatives stating the importance of Belgium in their calculations.

    The actual players are not the opposition, nor are the actual players the functionaries in the British military or foreign office. The actual players are the ministers of the British Cabinet, Asquith was the Prime Minister and Grey the Foreign secretary. The fact Churchill felt compelled to plot with Tories highlights the weak position of the hawks among those in power.

    Again, the Conservatives were not in Government. Churchill's concept of a coalition government was to remedy the Liberal Goverment being held hostage by the doves in power. If Asquith remains in place, the Liberal Cabinet can well afford the loss of a couple of hawks.

    No. There was an 'understanding on naval matters', which argubly created a moral obigation. There was nothing in respect of a formal alliance. Black or White = no Grey.

    Both Grey and Asquith were on record as believing Belgium was a big deal to the Conservatives - even war mongers need a plausible CB.

    A coup? Because the neither the Hawks nor the Conservatives had the numbers to overthrow the Government in pursuit of a war of aggression? Again, your reference refers to a coalition goverment being formed in a scenario where ministers resign enmass - the hawks only really had two.

    The Conservatives were not in government - it is not their call to make. The Liberal war-hawks (both of them) without Asquith have no means to destroy the Liberal Party - those Cabinet positions can be simply filled from within the Party. From memory, there were about five fanatical doves aligned with 3 neutralists lead by Lloyd George. In respect of the Liberal war-hawks, Haldane appeared to also favour of intervention, but in the absence of any sign of fanaticalism, I assume he would return to the flock.

    The reference you provided was interesting, but the focus was on the Conservative/Unionist support for the war. The article does not contemplate Belgium being spared, although it hints Unionist belligerence might have been independent of Belgium, but then states there is no evidence anywhere to support this. So even an article that goes out of its way to highlight Conservative support for the war, assumes Belgium was a big deal.
     
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  2. Tibi088 Well-Known Member

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    Why would Germany be silent? OTL that made sense as they refused to comply. However ATL they dont invade Belgium so if they get a british ultimatum that demands assurances in that regards they can give them - most likely with feigned indignation stating how they would never violate the rights of neutral powers and they are standing firmly on the ground of international law etc.
     
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  3. NoMommsen Donor

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    Actually : where does this come from ? ... beside some mabe in backrooms exchanged words of interpretations for whatever cause such a mention might serve for the moment.

    From the "Exchange of letters" between Cambon and Grey in November 1912 ?

    Well to provide some 'source' once again, here is the actual wording of the letter regarding naval matters :
    " ... We have agreed that consultation between experts is not, and ought not to be regarded as an engagement that conunits either Government to action in a contingency that has not arisen and may never arise. The disposition, for instance, of the French and British fleets respectively at the present moment is not based upon an engagement to co-operate in war.
    ..."​

    ... IMO these words try to do almost everything to avoid counting the fleet dispositions as anything done in "cooperattion" of whatever kind.
     
  4. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

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    And to keep the possibility open I have conceded that events could unfold through the morning of the 4th or even 5th such that things look as menacing but no troops cross into Belgium, that makes it a harder scenario but still Britain is at the brink not over it, casus belli goes missing. The heat in the debate is August 4 and the ultimatum, the POD is August 1, inside those days a lot more should change.
     
  5. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

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    The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost... if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world, eh?! Because we were going to announce it on Tuesday!

    Because in my fairness to the arguments for the British ultimatum we need the German decision to remain secret. And I know they would not discuss matters on Belgium to protect their planning yet send an ultimatum to Belgium that reveals the plan on August 2. I admit to scripting the events more like a murder mystery, the POD is buried, events carry on, distractions, Belgium is the McGuffin, and we bridge from August 1 to August 4. If as you observe the Kaiser sends his reply, all the carefully argued events in Britain must change. Yet I feel the argument is Britain still presses on Germany through the ultimatum on August 4. So be it. To get Britain declaring war we need events through August 4 to play out so confused that everyone may act as they did. But the hour German troops fail to cross the frontier we are more certainly subject to butterflies. And I am willing to concede to events playing out through that hour. But once the "ultimatum" is proven to be met, what does Grey and party do next?
     
  6. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps we have two PODs in play, orbiting like blinding suns, first the Germans do not invade Belgium, likely as of August 1 when the Kaiser decides it rather arbitrary, and next the British reaction once that event occurs, likely as of the morning of the 4th, likely after a British ultimatum and much ballyhoo in Cabinet, yet the casus belli upon which the British consensus for war has evaporated. The debate is against these two PODs, and like events they intertwine, we need both, but it is hard to find agreement as to how the former gives us the later.
     
  7. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    German diplomacy post Bismark was incredibly inept, but their ambassador in London seems to have been on the ball enough to be able to inform not only Grey but also Asquith that the Germans were going to respect neutral countries and honor the agreement Prussia had made as regards Belgium. And either Bethmann or Jagow would have kept the London embassy in the loop about the last minute change of plans. Behtmann really was interested in at least keeping Britain neutral and grasp the significance of violating Belgian neutrality, as evidenced by his own speech to the Reichstag after the invasion.
     
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  8. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

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    And I would agree but for the usual secrecy surrounding war planning, as the Army mobilizes I can see Moltke going silent and Bethmann not knowing that "we are not invading Belgium" after all. So as to not give away that forces will shift East and leave Germany "defenseless" on the Belgian border, the change of plans is not publicly acknowledged. But it is more literary device than solid argument, I would use it in a TL to add tension and parallel OTL events, but it is as plausible that the Kaiser shoots off a note to London and crashes the British debate as of August 1. The Cabinet might still meet or simply wait until after the Bank Holiday. Choose your own adventure.
     
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  9. Burton K Wheeler l'├ętat profond, c'est moi Moderator

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    This is way below the standard of civility expected on this board. Blatant insults are not in any way okay

    Kicked for a week.
     
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  10. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Remember the poster, and other propaganda, about the "scrap of paper" with the Germans ignoring the treaty on Belgian neutrality. The UK has a volunteer military, what does enlistment look like if there is a DoW without Belgium - "join up for geopolitical balance?" How does the UK parse a potential French violation of Belgian neutrality, if they attempt to cut the corner? If the war party wins, these are issues they will need to deal with. While the blockade of Germany will cause problems in the long run, in the near term it is a nuisance and if Germany knocks out Russia in 12-18 months at least some of the blockade effects are dissipated. How will Britons react when they see the casualty lists from the BEF - there is no way the French will let the BEF sit idle as a reserve when they are taking the sort of losses Plan XVII would result in here. Britain did nothing diplomatically or militarily to prevent Alsace-Lorraine from being transferred in 1871, selling shedding British blood and spending British treasure to recover these territories in 1914 is going to be a hard sell.

    Now, the parties all thought this was going to be a short war - don't they always make that mistake. Because of that these issues may simply be brushed aside by the warhawks in the UK cabinet. Neutral attitudes, both concerning what was clearly an illegal blockade (distant, all inclusive list of contraband, etc) and issues of finance, won't matter in a short war but will become important as time goes on. IMHO if Germany does not invade Belgium, support for the Entente will be markedly diminished in the USA where this will be seen as another European power struggle without much moral dimension, and besides who killed the archduke?
     
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  11. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    The PM puts the foreign minister he wants in place, not vice versa.
     
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  12. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    Whatever the BEF were to do after concentration, it does it because the Prime Minister decided to do it. Not the House. Not cabinet. On the PM's authority.
     
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  13. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    Probably more along the lines of the RN shadows every German merchant ship they can find, and guide the French in to an interception.
     
  14. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    The excerpts I quoted are Grey's, from Grey's memories. I see no reason to suppose he was lying.

    Grey was clear at the time and later he would go - the notion he'd have remained in a non-interventionist British cabinet is fictional. What Grey never explicitly stated was that he would bring down the Liberals after resigning, but in his memoires, IMO, he hints at it.

    I think it was possible (though not certain) that Grey could have caused the collapse of the Asquith government whether Asquith joined him in resigning, or not. For Asquith, if Grey resigned from a neutralist cabinet and he did not follow, it may have been political suicide.


    Yes, I think Asquith's motive in both cases was to suggest neutrality was possible when it was not, was the personal embarrassment at the fact that Britain must come in to a Franco-German war and nothing Germany did or did not do could change the fact. This was a the heart, the problem with the Entente policy. It was sold as defensive in nature,, but given the danger of German hegemony, whether Germany or France started the war was immaterial to the fact Britain must join it. That, IMO, was the source of Asquith's embarrassment in the days before Germany invaded Belgium.

    The embarrassment and anxiety that Asquith felt for the situation at the time afterwards has been matched by endless historians and students of history since, thousands and millions of which have decided that Germany's actions after 31 July had any material impact on the British entry into the war, when it did not. Myself, I understand Grey's policy perfectly and see why it had to be that way. The Germans could have avoided war with Britain, but not by 31 July. Just like how Grey had warned the Germans on 29 July.
     
  15. MichaelWest Well-Known Member

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    And as annoying as I may seem to be, I do sincerely want to know how the Cabinet gains any consensus for war when the bluff is called, casus belli Belgium evaporates, the real motivation for war is naked in the room? And I do not discount the very real rationale for intervening to salvage the French and hope to curtain a German hegemony over Europe if she should win, but is that enough to go to war on? My argument is that a politician like Asquith is not inclined to go to war for the sober geo-politics without some patriotic clothes to wrap it in, that for me is the political suicide. Sympathy with Grey or Churchill means not a thing when Asquith has his own reputations and standing to secure. If Germany should win even a short war he can pass that on to the Tories, hope they fumble it, and return to power more secure and hopefully without need for the Irish. Sausage making politics at its finest.
     
  16. NoMommsen Donor

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    You're really a fan of the "Schtronk-MAN" principle, aren't you ?

    However, you're absolutly right, that it was in the legal authority of the PM to order what you've mentioned.
    Nevertheless, EVERY PM is dependent on his cabinet members as well as his party 'friends' sitting in parliament. ... as without them and their support he would have been PM for the longest time.

    The same principle, that applies still today even also still today the PM is named by the bearer of the crown without any legal restrictions to appoint someone special, like the leader or appointed opf the largest faction in parliament.
    Therefore Asquith HAD to look at keeping his party together as his base of power. A coalition base of power at that time would have been torn away under his feet like a threadbare fyling carpet - what Asquith was well aware of, what IMHO was his main objective to avoid at almost any circumstances - might it maybe cost a war, might it maybe cost leaving Grey in the lurch.
     
  17. NoMommsen Donor

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    Asquith - or someone - suggesting/proposing neutrality to germany ...

    Some idea you aired on some occasions already.

    Do you have any evbidence, that such a somehow formalized proposal was in the ropes
     
  18. NoMommsen Donor

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    Maybe people, who might have some ideas or intentions to create such a timeline are somewhat ... afraid and perhaps discouraged.

    If already their starting post and POD would cause 51 pages of not only constructive discussion, not seldom fired up (not to say flamed)by seemingly biased, prejudiced statements ...
    not very encouraging.
     
  19. RMcD94 Well-Known Member

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    Might as well give it a shot, I'm sure if people get discouraged by negative feedback for their stories they can post somewhere with no comment section.
     
  20. Tibi088 Well-Known Member

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    Memoirs are the most subjective of any available source - also written years after the event with usually a goal in mind. I dont say they are not important or to be disregarded but they should be threated with extrem caution. Basing your argument on one is not the strongest of foundations.
     
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