Germany goes East in 1914 - French Munitions Production?

IOTL, Germany's offensive crippled French iron/steel production for the entire war, resulting in drastically lower munitions production from 1914-1916, with disastrous consequences for France's manpower and ability to go on the offensive and apply tactical lessons. In 1914 France produced 4.69 million tons of steel. By comparison, its domestic production in 1915 was 1.09 million tons plus 0.72 imports. In 1917 it was 2.2 million plus 1.4 million imports, 3.6 million tons of steel total.

These constraints dramatically limited what weaponry France could produce in its first couple years of war, giving Germany a huge material balance. If Germany doesn't invade France-proper, France has the supplies necessary to rapidly overcome any "shell crisis" and churn out vast quantities of shells and heavy artillery pieces in 1914-1915.

If France begins the materialschlacht in late-1914 vs 1916, Germany faces serious problems in trying to fight a sustained campaign in the East in 1915. It's going to lose ground on the Western Front, in its own territory (Including important iron production in Alsace), and have to contend with serious losses of men and material.
 
I'm almost certain that the German General Staff would be unwilling to trade space for time in its own territory. I'd imagine that troop formations from the east would have to be transferred West. How that would effect their Eastern performance is beyond my expertise. Perhaps less reinforcement of Austria-Hungary?
 
I'm almost certain that the German General Staff would be unwilling to trade space for time in its own territory. I'd imagine that troop formations from the east would have to be transferred West. How that would effect their Eastern performance is beyond my expertise. Perhaps less reinforcement of Austria-Hungary?

Yeah it’s hard to imagine Germany remaining on the defensive in the West in 1915 when the French Army starts smacking it with a wave of new munitions and hefty attrition from Winter 1914-1915 onward. It’s demoralizing to be on the receiving end of ceaseless artillery even if your opponent doesn’t have the immediate tactical skill to convert it into decisive victories.

Though I think the French had the requisite knowledge base to break trenches in early 1915, there were a lot of lessons learned being passed around after the Champagne fiasco. They just didn’t have the munitions to:

1. Provide the heavy artillery fire support component which was necessary for a breakthrough.

2. Make the Germans pay even if the offensive failed.

Learning curves get less steep (And steeper for the enemy) when you don’t need to skimp on the munitions.

I think Germany is gonna learn the wrong lessons from TTL Battle of the Frontiers and get a nasty surprise for Round 2/3. If they repulse the first French offensive as they did IOTL, using the border fortresses as pivot points to counterattack in the open, the lesson learned will be to dig in lightly and counter with large formations maneuvering for advantage. When the French return with better commanders and more firepower, it’s gonna be a bloodbath where the German Army takes at least a couple Ls. After that the Germans dig in with a heavily manned single frontline of trenches, which the French have the munitions to break and attrit but not aggressively exploit.

IOTL, at the Somme the German Army finally changed the core of its defensive doctrine in response to Anglo-French firepower, no longer heavily manning the frontline, digging in MGs at shell craters, and conducting counterattacks deliberately rather than “patch the breach with everything and the kitchen sink”. With the fighting on German territory and the possibility of a counterattack it seems unlikely such a fundamental change in mentality will be forthcoming.
 
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Yeah it’s hard to imagine Germany remaining on the defensive in the West in 1915 when the French Army starts smacking it with a wave of new munitions and hefty attrition from Winter 1914-1915 onward. It’s demoralizing to be on the receiving end of ceaseless artillery even if your opponent doesn’t have the immediate tactical skill to convert it into decisive victories.

Though I think the French had the requisite knowledge base to break trenches in early 1915, there were a lot of lessons learned being passed around after the Champagne fiasco. They just didn’t have the munitions to:

1. Provide the heavy artillery fire support component which was necessary for a breakthrough.

2. Make the Germans pay even if the offensive failed.

Learning curves get less steep (And steeper for the enemy) when you don’t need to skimp on the munitions.
I do wonder if the inability to focus so heavily on one front alongside French munitions might allow Russia to escape such a drastic shift in fortunes in 1916-1917. Though this is all assuming Britain involves itself. I personally think they would, but I know that's contentious.
 
I do wonder if the inability to focus so heavily on one front alongside French munitions might allow Russia to escape such a drastic shift in fortunes in 1916-1917. Though this is all assuming Britain involves itself. I personally think they would, but I know that's contentious.
I think it depends on how 1914-1915 goes. If Russia fights a bloody Round 1 with Germany and loses Poland but then gets 1915 to rest while Germany attacks France I think it’ll be in good shape overall to resume the fighting with much better material supply and morale in 1916.

I think British intervention is more likely than not in August 1914, with the compromise position not to immediately send the BEF and focus on naval/colonial war. I don’t think splitting the Liberal Party and risking a Conservative-Unionist style coalition war cabinet anyway was worth it for most of the cabinet. Honestly, it puts the UK in a significantly better starting position than OTL.

But if not, it’s hard to imagine Germany avoiding an offensive violation of Belgian neutrality in 1915 in an attempt to outflank the French Army.
 
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Germany's offensive crippled French iron/steel production for the entire war, resulting in drastically lower munitions production from 1914-1916, with disastrous consequences for France's manpower and ability to go on the offensive and apply tactical lessons
everyone had shell shortages, no-one imagining how many shells and cartridges were to be needed for continued high intensity modern combat

2nd, near all of the French Industrial Military complex was around Paris and SE France.
Losing NE France was bad for iron and coal production, but retaining it would not help with the supply issues needed to launch large offensives into the Saar

Having more supplies in 1914 would end up with more French Poilus getting fed into the German Meatgrinder
 
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NoMommsen

Donor
everyone had shell shortages, no-one imagining how many shells and cartridges were to be needed for continued high intensity modern combat
...
... and everyone thought that the assumed ammo stocks would be sufficient, therefore : no need to care for ramping up ammo pruduction considerably surpassing peacetime production.

Something out of the french wiki regarding the shell crisis :
About a michelin factory in Gravanches:​
"In mid-1915, this workshop produced two to three trains of ammunition per day8 to reach 60,000 shells / day in 1916. "​
About the factory of Andre Citroen in Paris extended and tooled up for shell production from Feb. 1915 onwards :​
"Citroën ended up producing in 1916 (in 29 successive standardized operations) an average of around 10,000 shells / day, but still irregularly, from simple steel bars."​
"From 1915 to 1918, Citroën produced around 26 million buses (for 430 million francs, excluding subcontracting expressly entrusted to Engrenages Citroën and Mors, also belonging to André Citroën). "​

It wasn't whatever resource shortness for the french - or british army - including steel. This was rather a problem for Germany being cut from its sources of nitrates for explosives and copper for driving bands.
It was a question of proper industrial organisation - not the more napoleonic times' statly arsenal production methods - to ramp up production. ... aside buying ready made shells and granades from the US of A.

Oh, and another recommendable article about the shell-crisis.
 
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everyone had shell shortages, no-one imagining how many shells and cartridges were to be needed for continued high intensity modern combat

2nd, near all of the French Industrial Military complex was around Paris and SE France.
Losing NE France was bad for iron and coal production, but retaining it would not help with the supply issues needed to launch large offensives into the Saar

Having more supplies in 1914 would end up with more French Poilus getting fed into the German Meatgrinder

... and everyone thought that the assumed ammo stocks would be sufficient, therefore : no need to care for ramping up ammo pruduction considerably surpassing peacetime production.

Something out of the french wiki regarding the shell crisis :
About a michelin factory in Gravanches:​
"In mid-1915, this workshop produced two to three trains of ammunition per day8 to reach 60,000 shells / day in 1916. "​
About the factory of Andre Citroen in Paris extended and tooled up for shell production from Feb. 1915 onwards :​
"Citroën ended up producing in 1916 (in 29 successive standardized operations) an average of around 10,000 shells / day, but still irregularly, from simple steel bars."​
"From 1915 to 1918, Citroën produced around 26 million buses (for 430 million francs, excluding subcontracting expressly entrusted to Engrenages Citroën and Mors, also belonging to André Citroën). "​

It wasn't whatever resource shortness for the french - or british army - including steel. This was rather a problem for Germany being cut from its sources of nitrates for explosives and copper for driving bands.
It was a question of proper industrial organisation - not the more napoleonic times' statly arsenal production methods - to ramp up production. ... aside buying ready made shells and granades from the US of A.

Oh, and another recommendable article about the shell-crisis.

I don't think the those are realistic comparisons. All of the nations in WW1 faced unique challenges mobilizing industrial production. Germany suffered from resource shortages and its industry was poorly organized for munitions production to make use of reserves until 1916. The UK was unready for mass production and only had a small expeditionary force to support until 1916.

For France, the occupation of its industrial heartland was the clear barrier to munitions production. As early as September 1914 industrialists were being mobilized to substantially increase munitions production - shortages across the board proved to be the primary barrier. The areas occupied represented 80% of steel, 43% of electricity, 55% of coal and 90% of iron ore. Iron production was just 25% of prewar levels in January 1915, and in January 1917 France was only producing at 71% of prewar coal production and 42% of prewar steel production.

Not to mention the loss of 14% of its industrial workforce including 62% of workers involved in metallurgy prewar.

The numbers below show a pretty clear correlation between iron/steel and the growth of France's munitions production:

Cast IronSteelMunitions Production
19135,207,3074,686,866N/A
19142,690,5462,586,8543,000,000
1915585,7761,087,00030,750,000
19161,488,6911,951,89265,500,000
19171,306,4942,231,62190,350,000

From 1914-1917, the growth of production was driven primarily by the alleviation of shortages of raw materials, production facilities, and manpower caused by the occupation. As Bostrom notes in The Establishment of the French War Machine in the First World War, the limited growth of steel and cast iron supplies in 1917 was what prompted production gains primarily based around the more efficient use of factories for production and stingier use of steel, along with increased imports of metals from abroad.

The idea that France's munitions production was unaffected by extreme losses isn't correct. It grew substantially in spite of such losses, but it would have had more than double its peak material capacity without them.

Likewise, the notion that France wouldn't benefit from increased munitions - and perhaps would actively be harmed by them - doesn't make much sense. You can just flip open Doughty, Goya, or Greenhalgh to hear about how the French Army was severely hampered by shortages of munitions, particularly modern heavy artillery, from 1914-1916.

Shortages of resources meant that the French Army had to prioritize individual portions of the artillery and modernize/arm them sequentially. 75mm production increased substantially from 1914-1916, while the French Army only received modern artillery pieces and ammunition in substantial qualities from 1916 onward. Shortages of modern heavy artillery, as we know, substantially undermined the French Army's ability to wage war.

The limitation for French factories was that until 1916 their assistance was needed to produce shells. More steel means more private metalworking firms can be retooled and expanded faster to produce more 75mm shells, freeing up the prewar specialized firms. Steel = tools = modernization = production. Further, it gives France more steel to copy their heavy arty machine tools for use in firms like Alsacienne and Girolou, which is exactly what happened IOTL 1916. Even before that, the 1916 program was able to increase production from 20 to 200 modern guns per month from May to October at the main firms through increased inputs of machine tools and manpower.

If the French Army was able to mobilize its industry, increase munitions production, and modernize its heavy artillery simultaneously in 1914-1915 with a relative glut of resources (Over 2x OTL's peak) it would be able to do substantially more damage to the German Army.
 
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1617765992972.png

Hmm. Drops in 1913
1617766100306.png

Dropping before the War
1617766173172.png

Also dropping before the War
So not helpful for France losing NE France
But look at Germany
1617766388664.png

France was still digging more Coal than Germany
1617766650256.png

1617766803016.png


It's like workers were no longer working, and sent off to a battlefield or something
 
Hmm. Drops in 1913

Dropping before the War

Also dropping before the War
So not helpful for France losing NE France
But look at Germany

France was still digging more Coal than Germany



It's like workers were no longer working, and sent off to a battlefield or something

Comparing to Germany's economy (Or the UK's) is apples to oranges. All of the WW1 economies had unique management practices and obstacles to overcome. Feldman and Herwig both give solid overviews of Germany's lackadaisical attitude toward industrial mobilization and labor in 1914-1916.

As Fontaine notes in French Industry During the War, while the initial mobilizations and occupation had reduced the metallurgical labor force substantially - it dropped by 67% in August-September 1914 - by January 1915 it had recovered to 63% of the prewar workforce, by July 82%, and by December 1915 100%. Below you can see the productivity of unoccupied regions of France in 1913 vs 1915 for steel as well as the 1st and 2nd halves of 1914:

Unoccupied Region19131914 (1st Half)1914 (2nd Half)1915
Center528242198581
SW1608033119
SE1205429116
West1848539146
Total992461294962

And for cast iron:

Unoccupied Region19131914 (1st Half)1914 (2nd Half)1915
Center1848547149
SW26112360185
SE1597644158
West109601358
Total713461164547

In 1915, the unoccupied areas of France produced 96% of their prewar steel and 77% of their prewar iron. In the 2nd half of 1914 production dropped (Compared to the 1st half) to 65% for steel and 36% for iron.

Approximating numbers, if we take the 2nd half of 1914 plus the 1st half of 1915 we have 437.5 thousand tons of iron and 775 thousand tons of steel for July 1914 - June 1915 for the unoccupied regions. That's 61% of prewar cast iron production and 78% of prewar steel production. If we extrapolate those declines for TTL's hypothetical unoccupied French economy, that would translate to:

TTL July 1914 - June 1915 (Dom + Imports)OTL 1917 (Dom + Imports)
Cast Iron3.2842.378
Steel4.4654.995

As we can see, in the first year of war alone the French will be able to produce raw materials on a level comparable to OTL 1917's total material balance. This would only grow from there as the labor force expands, industry modernizes, and production processes are made more efficient.

More raw materials = more machine tools = more productivity = more munitions.

More munitions = more dead Germans.
 
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NoMommsen

Donor
Comparing to Germany's economy (Or the UK's) is apples to oranges. All of the WW1 economies had unique management practices and obstacles to overcome. Feldman and Herwig both give solid overviews of Germany's lackadaisical attitude toward industrial mobilization and labor in 1914-1916.

As Fontaine notes in French Industry During the War, while the initial mobilizations and occupation had reduced the metallurgical labor force substantially - it dropped by 67% in August-September 1914 - by January 1915 it had recovered to 63% of the prewar workforce, by July 82%, and by December 1915 100%. Below you can see the productivity of unoccupied regions of France in 1913 vs 1915 for steel as well as the 1st and 2nd halves of 1914:

Unoccupied Region19131914 (1st Half)1914 (2nd Half)1915
Center528242198581
SW1608033119
SE1205429116
West1848539146
Total992461294962

And for cast iron:

Unoccupied Region19131914 (1st Half)1914 (2nd Half)1915
Center1848547149
SW26112360185
SE1597644158
West109601358
Total713461164547

In 1915, the unoccupied areas of France produced 96% of their prewar steel and 77% of their prewar iron. In the 2nd half of 1914 production dropped (Compared to the 1st half) by 65% for steel and 36% for iron.

Approximating numbers, if we take the 2nd half of 1914 plus the 1st half of 1915 we have 437.5 thousand tons of iron and 775 thousand tons of steel for July 1914 - June 1915 for the unoccupied regions. That's 61% of prewar cast iron production and 78% of prewar steel production. If we extrapolate those declines for TTL's hypothetical unoccupied French economy, that would translate to:

TTL July 1914 - June 1915 (Dom + Imports)OTL 1917 (Dom + Imports)
Cast Iron3.2842.378
Steel4.4654.995

As we can see, in the first year of war alone the French will be able to produce raw materials on a level comparable to OTL 1917's total material balance. This would only grow from there as the labor force expands, industry modernizes, and production processes are made more efficient.

More raw materials = more machine tools = more productivity = more munitions.

More munitions = more dead Germans.
... extrapolate ... from numbers published 1926 ... somehow doesn't really fit to the researched/collected data of the FRED from about 2012 ...
... also there's some 'discrpancy' between the numbers of you in #8 (also from French Industry During the War ?) to the above shown graphs of the FRED ...
... and ... what's meant with "productivity ... for steel" ? These are no prudution numbers.

However, your account of french heavy industry shows the remarkable rcovery of the due to conscription of labor force into the armed forces and unprepared pre-war industrial organisation for this task.
A recovery quite similar in its downs 'n ups as it happened with every belligerent due to the same reasons and up to similar levels as well.
The rorganisation of conscrition to release labor force, the reorganisation of production methods as well as purchase and management by the state (wich were even slower in adopting to the 'modern times' than the industrialists - in every contry) was it what took the time to improve production again.

Even if the french industry and civil management would have been in possesion of the 'resources' they lost in the first 3 three month the production of heavy industry - and shells specifically - would have surged the same as IOTL simply due to loss of labour forces which only after these 3 month began to be reorganised.
Therefore the higher availability of raw materials and labour force could have had a feelable effect on the available artillery ammo - if lucky - in late summer 1915at best rather late autumn 1915 regarding on the available ammo.
... a wee bit earlier somewhat more than IOTL, but ... considerable ???
 
View attachment 639890
Hmm. Drops in 1913
View attachment 639891
Dropping before the War
View attachment 639892
Also dropping before the War
So not helpful for France losing NE France
@marathag I think you read those graphics wrong. There is only one point per year, so if 1914 is low, 1913 is the peak.

Yeah it’s hard to imagine Germany remaining on the defensive in the West in 1915 when the French Army starts smacking it with a wave of new munitions and hefty attrition from Winter 1914-1915 onward. It’s demoralizing to be on the receiving end of ceaseless artillery even if your opponent doesn’t have the immediate tactical skill to convert it into decisive victories.

Though I think the French had the requisite knowledge base to break trenches in early 1915, there were a lot of lessons learned being passed around after the Champagne fiasco. They just didn’t have the munitions to:

1. Provide the heavy artillery fire support component which was necessary for a breakthrough.

2. Make the Germans pay even if the offensive failed.

Learning curves get less steep (And steeper for the enemy) when you don’t need to skimp on the munitions.

I think Germany is gonna learn the wrong lessons from TTL Battle of the Frontiers and get a nasty surprise for Round 2/3. If they repulse the first French offensive as they did IOTL, using the border fortresses as pivot points to counterattack in the open, the lesson learned will be to dig in lightly and counter with large formations maneuvering for advantage. When the French return with better commanders and more firepower, it’s gonna be a bloodbath where the German Army takes at least a couple Ls. After that the Germans dig in with a heavily manned single frontline of trenches, which the French have the munitions to break and attrit but not aggressively exploit.

IOTL, at the Somme the German Army finally changed the core of its defensive doctrine in response to Anglo-French firepower, no longer heavily manning the frontline, digging in MGs at shell craters, and conducting counterattacks deliberately rather than “patch the breach with everything and the kitchen sink”. With the fighting on German territory and the possibility of a counterattack it seems unlikely such a fundamental change in mentality will be forthcoming.

@Julian Not to forget that Lorraine Iron mines and steel production are really close to the pre-war border, less than 20 km, for both sides. Those sites will be fought over or, at least, within artillery range for the two armies. It will negatively impact production for both, even if it's still a bonus for France from OTL.
 
... extrapolate ... from numbers published 1926 ... somehow doesn't really fit to the researched/collected data of the FRED from about 2012 ...
... also there's some 'discrpancy' between the numbers of you in #8 (also from French Industry During the War ?) to the above shown graphs of the FRED ...
... and ... what's meant with "productivity ... for steel" ? These are no prudution numbers.

However, your account of french heavy industry shows the remarkable rcovery of the due to conscription of labor force into the armed forces and unprepared pre-war industrial organisation for this task.
A recovery quite similar in its downs 'n ups as it happened with every belligerent due to the same reasons and up to similar levels as well.
The rorganisation of conscrition to release labor force, the reorganisation of production methods as well as purchase and management by the state (wich were even slower in adopting to the 'modern times' than the industrialists - in every contry) was it what took the time to improve production again.

Even if the french industry and civil management would have been in possesion of the 'resources' they lost in the first 3 three month the production of heavy industry - and shells specifically - would have surged the same as IOTL simply due to loss of labour forces which only after these 3 month began to be reorganised.
Therefore the higher availability of raw materials and labour force could have had a feelable effect on the available artillery ammo - if lucky - in late summer 1915at best rather late autumn 1915 regarding on the available ammo.
... a wee bit earlier somewhat more than IOTL, but ... considerable ???

I don't see any contradiction at all? Pig iron != cast iron, after all. Fontaine is citing directly from the documents of France's industry. None of the FRED numbers show a breakdown production from 1913-1918 by region, which is the important number because it demonstrates how much production declined from 1914-1915 in the unoccupied portions of France.

The number I listed are for the decline in production of cast iron and steel in the second half of 1914 and all of 1915 in the unoccupied regions of France. If we ascribe all of this decline to shortages of labor caused by mobilization (Not all of it stemmed from this, but I'm being generous), we can extrapolate how much French production as a whole would decline ITTL if none of its iron and steel production was lost but it still experienced labor shortages.

Thus, we get a decline of 61% of prewar cast iron production and 78% of prewar steel production from July 1914 - June 1915, or the below:

Cast Iron3.284 (mil. tons)
Steel4.465 (mil. tons)

To your second point, I agree that French industry faced three fundamental constraints in its mobilization of armaments:

1. Raw materials.

2. Machinery.

3. Manpower.

The first issue, as noted, has been resolved by France retaining its prewar industrial and mining regions.

To the second issue, ammunition and artillery production required specific machinery tools to build, which initially limited production to prewar arsenals with existing machinery. Because of limits on productive capacity and resources, IOTL even firms with specialized equipment for heavy artillery such as s Schneider et Cie and Saint-Chamond had to focus on 75mm shell production. Resources only permitted the start of retooling of French private industry for simplified barrel production in January-February 1915. A glut of steel and iron, however, allows French industry to begin retooling immediately in October 1914, when initial industrial efforts began to raise shell production in response to the75mm shell crisis.

To the question of manpower, at noted above French metallurgy had recovered from standing at 33% of its prewar manpower at the end of August 1914 to 48% in October 1914 to 63% in January 1915 to 82% in July despite losing 52% of its prewar manpower to the German occupation. Even in August 1915, operating at less than 100% of pre-1914 manpower, out of 1,500 factories involved in armaments production only 72 were out of operation due to lack of manpower. Already in September-October 1914 Albert Thomas, head of the Armaments Ministry, was conducting a full survey of industrial enterprises producing or capable of producing armaments to determine armaments needs and began withdrawing men from the army to support armaments. To resolve this problem, the French state has 2 tools unavailable to it IOTL 1914-1915:

1. The transfer of labor from civilian metallurgy to armaments production. With a relative glut of steel and a shortage of manpower, metal workers can be transferred from surplus industry to deficit industry . IOTL loss of a substantial portion of the civilian workforce made labor too tight for easy transfers within metallurgy. A sacrifice of 5-10% of steel output in order to provide 100,000-200,000 additional metalworkers for domestic armaments industry would still leave French industry producing at 80-85% of its 1917 steel/cast iron levels in early 1915.

2. The substitution of labor with machinery. With substantially more domestic resources to produce machine tools (Drills, lathes, etc), the armaments industry - including private facilities - can be mechanized substantially faster than IOTL. A bounty of raw materials makes labor-saving techniques substantially easier to apply sooner.

Greater raw material and industries don't merely main greater supply. They can also support labor-saving techniques, broaden the base of production, and justify the transfer of labor from one industry to another because of surpluses. Will French industry be producing armaments at the scale of 1917 in early 1915? That seems unlikely. But a heavy artillery modernization and shell production program on the scale of what occurred IOTL 1916 beginning in late 1914 is entirely possible, resulting in ever-increasing French combat power in 1915. This will, naturally, have severe consequences for the German Army's ability to defend itself and fight a war of attrition in the West while remaining on the offensive in the East in 1915.

Lets not forget, of course, that it's entirely likely that the UK enters the war and imposes a naval blockade even if Belgium isn't invaded, though the BEF is unlikely to be deployed to the continent. Germany faces severe munitions constraints in 1915 even as France faces none and can receive additional orders from the UK and Commonwealth (Another 12 million additional shells in 1915). Germany getting outshot 2-3:1 on the Western Front isn't a recipe for victory.
 
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The iron ore deposits in Lorraine were the main source of iron ore for both Germany and France. The Franco-German border ran right through this area, as the map below shows.

When France attacks Germany in 1914, this offensive is likely to be repulsed. In a counter-offensive, Germany will take Longwy and Briey. As a result, the entire iron ore deposit falls into German hands. Since France is the aggressor in this TL, the British will remain neutral. The Germans will do everything they can to keep it that way, to avoid a naval blockade. This means that Germany in particular has more access to raw materials, which can lead to higher ammunition production.

Of course, the industry of Northern France remains intact in this TL, which will indeed also lead to higher French (ammunition) production. Ultimately, the French and Germans can bombard each other with even more grenades than in OTL, but the stalemate remains.

location-of-the-Lorraine-iron-ore-basin.png
 
The iron ore deposits in Lorraine were the main source of iron ore for both Germany and France. The Franco-German border ran right through this area, as the map below shows.

When France attacks Germany in 1914, this offensive is likely to be repulsed. In a counter-offensive, Germany will take Longwy and Briey. As a result, the entire iron ore deposit falls into German hands. Since France is the aggressor in this TL, the British will remain neutral. The Germans will do everything they can to keep it that way, to avoid a naval blockade. This means that Germany in particular has more access to raw materials, which can lead to higher ammunition production.

Of course, the industry of Northern France remains intact in this TL, which will indeed also lead to higher French (ammunition) production. Ultimately, the French and Germans can bombard each other with even more grenades than in OTL, but the stalemate remains.

If Russia begins fully mobilizing against Austria, a declaration of war from Vienna will inevitably follow as Conrad intended to cross the Russian border with cavalry screens from the start and get the jump on their mobilization in Poland with an aggressive attack. Likewise, if Germany intends to deploy East first to attack it will have to declare war in order to get the jump on Russian deployments and screen its forward concentrations with infantry and cavalry. Sitting and waiting for Russia to fully mobilize was never on the cards for either party.

France being the one to declare war to defend Russia would in the end be irrelevant to a British declaration of war on Germany, though it may prevent the BEF from being deployed in favor of a blockade + colonial warfare. What swayed the cabinet was the risk of splitting the Liberal Party and seeing it replaced with a Conservative government, which would still declare war regardless, as well as the understanding that imperial interests required picking a side (And that a Russo-French victory was the preferable option). Not the mention Britain's commitment to keeping the High Seas Fleet out of the North Sea/Channel and attacking it on site should it try to sortie against France. The UK was gonna declare war in 1914 - how big its ground commitment was going to be was the only thing in question.

I think Germany counterattacking between Metz and Thionville at all seems unlikely, given both what we know from OTL's thinking and what French deployments in the event Belgian neutrality wasn't violated would look like. The French would deploy 3 of their active armies (4th, 2nd, and 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 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


From what I've seen for the various Ost deployment directives (The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I has the most detailed compendium I've seen) the plan was to 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.

The German initial mobilization would be 5th Army with 5 corps from Metz to the Belgian border, 6th and 7th Armies with 10Corps between Metz and Strasbourg, and 2 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 VII Corps occupying 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 rather than overstretching themselves against superior numbers. 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 34) across the front, more than enough to push the Germans back across the border and perhaps even occupy 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 reorganize its army and industry for a new counteroffensive.
 
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Wow, good map of plan XVII! Where did you find it?

France being the one to declare war to defend Russia would in the end be irrelevant to a British declaration of war on Germany, though it may prevent the BEF from being deployed in favor of a blockade + colonial warfare. What swayed the cabinet was the risk of splitting the Liberal Party and seeing it replaced with a Conservative government, which would still declare war regardless, as well as the understanding that imperial interests required picking a side (And that a Russo-French victory was the preferable option). Not the mention Britain's commitment to keeping the High Seas Fleet out of the North Sea/Channel and attacking it on site should it try to sortie against France. The UK was gonna declare war in 1914 - how big its ground commitment was going to be was the only thing in question.

Here I have my question marks. After reading this article about British entry into World War I, I draw different conclusions. Britain certainly wants to avoid a French defeat. But to join France, after France itself declares war and invades Germany... That is highly unlikely. Britain will impose conditions on Germany under which it remains neutral (no HSF in the channel, for example). Germany is forced to adhere to that.

I think Germany counterattacking between Metz and Thionville at all seems unlikely, given both what we know from OTL's thinking and what French deployments in the event Belgian neutrality wasn't violated would look like. The French would deploy 3 of their active armies (4th, 2nd, and 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 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:

Plan XVII was disastrous for France, as evidenced by the Battle of the Frontiers. Lorraine will also be a slaughterhouse for France in this TL. After that, Germany is certainly capable of a counterattack, just like in OTL.

From what I've seen for the various Ost deployment directives (The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I has the most detailed compendium I've seen) the plan was to 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.

Hm ... the 8th army is not mentioned. Perhaps a very old source? This article on German deployment plans mentions other divisions between east and west. 5 German armies on the western front is more likely. Then your assumption about the course of the battle will not come true.
 
Wow, good map of plan XVII! Where did you find it?

Here I have my question marks. After reading this article about British entry into World War I, I draw different conclusions. Britain certainly wants to avoid a French defeat. But to join France, after France itself declares war and invades Germany... That is highly unlikely. Britain will impose conditions on Germany under which it remains neutral (no HSF in the channel, for example). Germany is forced to adhere to that.

Plan XVII was disastrous for France, as evidenced by the Battle of the Frontiers. Lorraine will also be a slaughterhouse for France in this TL. After that, Germany is certainly capable of a counterattack, just like in OTL.

Hm ... the 8th army is not mentioned. Perhaps a very old source? This article on German deployment plans mentions other divisions between east and west. 5 German armies on the western front is more likely. Then your assumption about the course of the battle will not come true.

The French official history of WW1 is online and has a ton of great maps! See here!

The Wikipedia article offers a weak summary and takes Zara Steiner in Britain and the Origins of the First World War out of context. While the invasion of Belgium proved key to providing the justification for war and fully galvanizing support, the decision had already been made up by August 2nd, with a majority of the cabinet accepting the rationale for war:
Political considerations contributed to the near unanimity of the Cabinet. It was not that the neutralists deserted their principles to stay in power.59 Grey’s question forced his colleagues to consider those interests which had led them, despite occasional outbursts of indignation, to support an Entente policy with its accompanying strategic dispositions right up to the eve of the war. Only a small minority had clearly rejected the balance-of-power theories which underlay Grey’s thinking. Few wished to go as far as Grey was now demanding, but there was a growing sense that intervention was inevitable. Britain had not been attacked but with France involved, all the past reasons for strengthening the Entente came into play. Politicians seldom resign voluntarily, especially for a lost cause. Ministers already knew that if Grey’s Entente policy was repudiated, he and Asquith would leave the Cabinet and others would follow. The arrival of the Conservative leaders’ letter pledging ‘to support us in going in with France’ strengthened Grey’s hand at this crucial meeting.60 There was a clear alternative to a Liberal government.

While a German non-invasion of Belgium would certainly have prompted at least some additional cabinet resignations, the balance of power both within the Liberal cabinet and Parliament at large had decisively shifted. Had the cabinet refused to countenance war, the Conservatives were waiting in the wings to take advantage of the resignations of the interventionists to rope disaffected pro-war Liberals and Labor MPs, 1/4 -1/2 of both parties, into a war coalition. It was either going to be a Liberal war or a Conservative. Wilson's article "The British Cabinet's Decision for War, 2 August 1914" states this point forcefully as well, which Clarke in The Sleepwalkers agrees with.

Faced with desertion by Grey and Asquith, their most prestigious colleagues, and with the readiness of the Opposition to pursue a war policy, the neutralists had reneged on their pacifism. Considerations of unity and of the future prospects of the Liberals as the party of Govern meant constrained all but four ministers (even though a contradiction of one of the basic tenets of Liberalism was involved) to accept the conditions Grey made.

Whether France declares war on Germany in defense of Russia isn't relevant to the calculation here, which is a matter of imperial sentiments and parliamentary politics. It does make it harder to endorse a fullscale armed commitment to the continent, however, which is why I imagine Asquith would square the circle by initially pursuing a blockade + colonial warfare, with armed forces on the continent only if Germany invades Belgium.

As to Plan XVII, I'd suggest reading Doughty's article "French Strategy in 1914". Plan XVII was a plan of concentration, nothing more. Joffre made the call on where to attack based on where he believed the Germans were weak. IOTL he assumed they had fewer divisions than they actually did, and therefore attempted to launch assaults into the Ardennes and Lorraine where he believed the front was screened only by weak reserve corps (Crosshatched areas):

archives_SHDBG_Q_in4-000004-01-1-C_0016_2.jpg


This of course proved incorrect. Joffre's offensive in Lorraine with 6 Corps ran smack into 8 German Corps who counterattacked and defeated them in detail. 3rd and 4th Army in the Ardennes fought 10 German corps with 8 French and were also defeated. And we know how the BEF and 5th Army were handled by 3 German armies. Going on the offensive wasn't a bad idea, conceptually, to throw off the German plan - going on the offensive with dispersed strength on multiple axes with bad intelligence against a numerically stronger enemy was. In An ATL, a strong concentrated offensive against a weaker opponent would be exactly the right call.

This is not to say the French defeat was solely the result of strategic errors. They had obvious weaknesses at the operational and tactical level which took several weeks to overcome. However, France on the offensive will benefit greatly from the ability to concentrate in strength against a numerically inferior enemy, as the Germans did successfully on several occasions. Fighting a battle of maneuver in Lorraine against a numerically superior French Army is not going to be a fun experience for 5th, 6th, and 7th Armies. Writing off the French Army which inflicted 200,000 casualties on the Germans in August and defeated them just 2 weeks after losing at the Frontiers would be relying too much on cliches and stereotypes over history.

To your final point, I believe Wikipedia is confusing different deployment directives. To sum up they are:

Aufmarsch I - Deployment directives if the war begins in the West. It had 2 variants, Aufmarsch I West (The "Schlieffen Plan") or Aufmarsch I Ost, which deploys 3 armies in the East and 5 in the West.

Aufmarsch II - Deployment directives if war begins in the East. It had variants Aufmarsch II West (Again, the "Schlieffen Plan") and Aufmarsch II Ost (The "Grosser Ostaufmarsch") which deploys 4 armies East and 3 armies West.

Aufmarsch II Ost was built on in the late 1900s and Early 1910s in response to the Balkan crises and growing Russian military power. It was a plan to strike at Russia offensively in the event of a general Balkan war, with a strong defensive force in the West if France joined Russia's side at some point. As I noted above, this involves deploying 42 divisions in 4 armies East and 34 divisions (Plus 2 Corps in reserve and 6 Ersatz divisions) to the West, keeping at their mobilization stations to respond to a French invasion. In 1912-1913 this was the only war plan under serious consideration in response to the Bosnian Crisis.

Aufmarsch II Ost had some obvious flaws. Deploying 2 armies of 10+ Corps to East Prussia over just a couple double track railway lines would take substantial time, as long or longer as it would take the Russian Army to fully mobilize. Deploying 2 additional armies to East Prussia would take even longer, but so would deploying them in Silesia/West Prussia and having them march to the Vistula/across the Vistula to the Narew, respectively.

But it's the best plan to focus on knocking out Russia ASAP, and was the only one the German Army had on the books from 1900-1913. From 1913 onward Moltke focused entirely on France and Aufmarsch I/II West. But ITTL the Kaiser insists on an Eastern deployment, and so the Grosser Ostaufmarsch is brought back into play.
 
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The French official history of WW1 is online and has a ton of great maps! See here!

Thanks for the link! interesting site indeed.

The Wikipedia article offers a weak summary and takes Zara Steiner in Britain and the Origins of the First World War out of context. While the invasion of Belgium proved key to providing the justification for war and fully galvanizing support, the decision had already been made up by August 2nd, with a majority of the cabinet accepting the rationale for war:

This British thinking assumes a German attack on France. I agree that in that case (with or without violation of Belgian neutrality) Britain would enter the war on the French side. But you have not convinced me that when France initiates war against Germany, Britain will join it.

This is not to say the French defeat was solely the result of strategic errors. They had obvious weaknesses at the operational and tactical level which took several weeks to overcome. However, France on the offensive will benefit greatly from the ability to concentrate in strength against a numerically inferior enemy, as the Germans did successfully on several occasions. Fighting a battle of maneuver in Lorraine against a numerically superior French Army is not going to be a fun experience for 5th, 6th, and 7th Armies. Writing off the French Army which inflicted 200,000 casualties on the Germans in August and defeated them just 2 weeks after losing at the Frontiers would be relying too much on cliches and stereotypes over history.

I also don't think a German counter-offensive will defeat France. I expect a stalemate, more or less along the French-German border.

Aufmarsch I - Deployment directives if the war begins in the West. It had 2 variants, Aufmarsch I West (The "Schlieffen Plan") or Aufmarsch I Ost, which deploys 3 armies in the East and 5 in the West.

Aufmarsch II - Deployment directives if war begins in the East. It had variants Aufmarsch II West (Again, the "Schlieffen Plan") and Aufmarsch II Ost (The "Grosser Ostaufmarsch") which deploys 4 armies East and 3 armies West.

You have thoroughly studied the German deployment plans, but I really miss an army here:
Aufmarsch I Ost: 3 + 5 = 8
Aufmarsch II Ost: 4 + 3 = 7
 
Thanks for the link! interesting site indeed.



This British thinking assumes a German attack on France. I agree that in that case (with or without violation of Belgian neutrality) Britain would enter the war on the French side. But you have not convinced me that when France initiates war against Germany, Britain will join it.



I also don't think a German counter-offensive will defeat France. I expect a stalemate, more or less along the French-German border.



You have thoroughly studied the German deployment plans, but I really miss an army here:
Aufmarsch I Ost: 3 + 5 = 8
Aufmarsch II Ost: 4 + 3 = 7

The German and Austrian official histories are also online. They’re invaluable resources.

I think, for the UK, you’re mixing up advertisement with decision. Grey justified the war with Germany as a defense of Belgium, but the cabinet had already moved decisively toward war several days beforehand. What the Liberal interventionists were arguing for was an articulation of Liberal Imperialism, the defense of the UK’s continental interests against a strong Germany. Only a minority of the non-interventionist MPs disagreed with this paradigm. Their opposition to intervention was a matter of indecisiveness, not principle - most were ready to fold when push came to shove. If Germany declares war on Russia and invades Luxembourg the interventionists will call it an “aggressor nation” and rally enough support for war all the same.

On the flipside, the non-interventionists in the cabinet (And Asquith) know that they don’t have the political support in parliament to force the issue. British public opinion was firmly pro-Serbia, the Opposition had endorsed war, and far too many Liberal and Labor votes were ready to defect to an Interventionist Coalition for the Liberal cabinet to remain should they decide not to intervene. In the end, the correlation of forced would have led to an interventionist victory. The Liberals knew this and decided to pursue war while they were still in power rather than lose power and still go to war.

Whether Germany is an aggressor against France or “merely” Russia and Luxembourg doesn’t change the bellicosity of parliament as a whole. Now ITTL a full scale continental intervention would be impossible to justify. But a blockade + invasion of Germany’s colonies would be low risk, high reward, and appeal to the imperial sensibilities of the cabinet.

I think we’re broadly in agreement re: the Western Front ITTL 1914. I believe that the better correlation of forces for France will put the frontline on the German side of the border, giving France full access to its prewar resources. Further, it’s likely the high costs of the fighting (100s of thousands of German casualties) will prompt some transfer of men from the East to the West, with knockoff effects on how the Eastern campaign proceeds.

Yeah I’m not sure where 8th Army is supposed to go ITTL. All of Germany’s divisions are accounted for so it doesn’t really matter that much, we’ve just got an extra HQ floating around. Aufmarsch II Ost doesn’t mention it. Maybe it’s supposed to manage the reserves or North Sea coast? The smartest thing to do would be to put it in charge of the corps in Upper Alsace. Maybe just throw it there and be done with it.
 
I think, for the UK, you’re mixing up advertisement with decision. Grey justified the war with Germany as a defense of Belgium, but the cabinet had already moved decisively toward war several days beforehand. What the Liberal interventionists were arguing for was an articulation of Liberal Imperialism, the defense of the UK’s continental interests against a strong Germany. Only a minority of the non-interventionist MPs disagreed with this paradigm. Their opposition to intervention was a matter of indecisiveness, not principle - most were ready to fold when push came to shove. If Germany declares war on Russia and invades Luxembourg the interventionists will call it an “aggressor nation” and rally enough support for war all the same.

Still, I have my doubts as to whether British entry into the war is already certain on 2 August. France was not yet at war at that time. France had not even made a decision to declare war on Germany, I understand from French entry into World War I. In theory, France could have chosen to remain neutral. Had Britain then declared war on Germany after all?

What is the importance of Britain in going to war if both the Empire and France are not threatened by Germany? Just to take the few German colonies? For fear of the HSF, Britain has to keep almost its entire fleet in the North Sea, so that it cannot be deployed anywhere else. Not much of an advantage.

Yeah I’m not sure where 8th Army is supposed to go ITTL. All of Germany’s divisions are accounted for so it doesn’t really matter that much, we’ve just got an extra HQ floating around. Aufmarsch II Ost doesn’t mention it. Maybe it’s supposed to manage the reserves or North Sea coast? The smartest thing to do would be to put it in charge of the corps in Upper Alsace. Maybe just throw it there and be done with it.

Hm .. maybe a sloppy mistake from your source? What I read about German Ostaufmarsch plans is a minimum distribution of 50/50 between east and west, rather 60/40. That means 4 or 5 armies that are deployed in defense against France. The French and Germans are then more or less evenly matched in numbers. Since attacking results in more deaths than defending, especially against the German fortifications, I still give Germany the better chances.

You may also be interested in this thread: FYI : about Ludwig Beck on "East First 1914"
 
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