Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by antoine, May 18, 2013.
Is it really treachery when you had no say in the first place?
Well, certain officials have sworn oaths to serve loyally the will of their King, and they are now conspiring against him. So yes, it is treachery...no matter the extenuating circumstances.
Breaking India (September 1897- December 1897)
All ideas that the Great War was going to spare India from the countless horrors of war died on September 20 1897 when the Sikh Empire and the Kingdom of Mysore declared war to the French Empire, officially joining the Central Alliance. Several diplomatic teams had indeed signed a secret pact six months ago, the UPNG agreeing to carve the sub-continent between its three allies should they prove victorious.
The two realms had assisted with dread to the titanic preparations started by the French armies to wipe out Omani India in a single campaigning season. It seemed impossible the Sultanate could hope to survive the ocean of men mobilising on their eastern frontier and if Oman fell, Mysore and the Empire would be isolated from each other. The Ghurkhas were non-aligned and remaining neutral for the time being, but the Sikh generals felt confident they could bleed the Entente on the Omani battlefields. Besides, Persia was next door and had promised twenty divisions to help them.
The Alliance commanders soon realised their optimism had been based on inaccurate numbers. First, Persia regulars would never come, courtesy of the Russian 7th Army rampaging in the supposedly heavily defended Persian lands. Over forty divisions of French troops broke through the Omani defences by the end of September. The defenders of the Central Alliance had better portable weapons, but did it really matter when on certain sections of the battlefield they were outnumbered three-to-one and annihilated by a relentless bombardment of artillery? The Omani officers had not planned for a defence in depth – their budget was not able to finance it – and under a naval blockade no reinforcements would come from Oman. By the end of October, two-thirds of the Omani army was gone, their Indian possession was cut in two and the fortresses the Entente hadn’t been able to storm were starving.
The Kingdom of Mysore was faring better. Its artillery batteries were modern and unlike Oman, its army had not been dispersed on three different theatres. They had also planned for a defensive war and the first trenches had been dug in the last week of September. On the other hand, they had still been pushed back nearly fifty kilometres and the same naval blockade strangling Oman was enforced on their coastal waters. Mysore held but for how much longer? The reserves of nitrates they had stocked were not endless. Their entire economy was not ready to wage a long war: to counter the crushing number superiority, the overwhelming majority of men in age to fight had gone to the frontlines. To say the effect on the agricultural sector was not good was an understatement of the highest order and there was no chance to buy the harvest of another nation this time.
The Sikh Empire was far more ready to handle a long war, unleashing sixty divisions southwards by mid-October. The interval it took for the Empire to mobilise and equip them for said war was too long however. The initial plans to wage war on Omani soil were more or less dead in the water; the French were already marching north to fight these new enemies, pushing before them the remnants of the Omani.
When the two large masses of men clashed, it was a battle like India had never seen in the past. Hundreds of thousands men, tens of thousands rifles, thousands of guns fired at each other. The Sikh divisions engaged had the numerical advantage and were more rested, but the French-Indian troops were veterans and had been winning victories after victories in the last month. On dozen of kilometres, the earth was transformed into a hellish vision of craters, fire and ammunition remains. It was an apocalyptic vision and a no man’s land in one picture. For three weeks the battle was fought and the levels of destruction only increased. Entire divisions entered the melee and were rotated out days later as their fighting capacity had been destroyed. Thousands of men died per day in futile offensives conquering a few hundred metres which were reconquered the next morning.
By November 16, the High Command of Pondicherry stopped all offensives, knowing their attempt to repulse the Sikh back into their home territories had failed. The next day their opponents chose too to stop there the slaughter. The Sikh army had probably lost more men than the Entente, but the French armies of the Indian theatre of operations were fighting against Mysore at the same time. With the Bengali forces busy invading Burma, the generals knew they needed months to equip new divisions, improve their logistics and adapt to the new situation. Besides, the current frontlines had failed to knock out completely Oman out of the war – the colonial administration had taken refuge north and there were regiments manning the lines along the Sikh – but the Entente controlled the Indian Ocean and blockaded the entire sub-continent. Time was playing in their favour...but the prospects of an easy and rapid resolution of the conflict had vanished into the night.
The conflict was not just limited to the bloody ruins of contested villages and towns. Sikhs and French were fighting for total supremacy in India, for the minds and hearts of its people. Newspapers and the many communication methods controlled by the various governments were pouring propaganda for their citizens to buy war bonds and enlist. Delegations were trying to seduce the Ghurkhas into entering the Great War, as their entry could be the turning point for a quick and easy victory. The sub-continent was no stranger to warfare, but the first months of war were proving matters could still escalate beyond what had been thought reasonable...
To many people struggle that war as a reasonable alternative is an idiotic idea. War is a last resort.
Not that long ago war was seen as another diplomatic tool amon many. It's both world war that changed that view.
This war will decide the new world order. Diplomacy is merely a single tool of a nations arsenal in its pursuit of self enrichment.
Yes...though it remains to be seen if the order which will be emerge will last long. The war is going to last far longer than everyone planned for, and the stability of every nation is going to be paramount after the last shot is fired...
Defence is the best offense (Eastern Europe September 1897-December 1897)
On September 17 1897, Eastern Europe exploded in flames as the Kingdom of Poland and Republic of Finland’s armies executed Operation Tornado, the long-awaited offensive against the Russian Empire. This was the greatest operation ever planned by the two nations, and virtually the entirety of their regular military forces was committed to this first onslaught. The goal was to defeat the armies of the tsar before the Russians general staff had the time to mobilise its endless reserves. Saxony and the Dual Republic would muster their best armies against France; Poland and Finland would deal with the bear.
Operation Tornado came as a very bad surprise for the Entente. Sigismund IV and his Marshals had hidden well their preparations and the Russian 1st Army of General Savorov suffered a heavy defeat when it tried to stop it at the frontier. On hundreds of kilometres, the soldiers of the tsars had no choice but to cede ground, their enemies having mobilised faster than them. Six Polish armies were facing four Russian ones, and the slow communications and transportation of the Russian infrastructure meant the advantage remained with the Union for several weeks. By the end of September, the Polish men were entering Livonia and here the war took a far darker turn.
The Great Duchy – which had also been a kingdom in past centuries – was considered by the Polish Crown as one of their legitimate possessions and the propaganda had repeated the rank and file of the soldiers these affirmations. There were indeed a minority of Livonians sharing these views. But there were as many seeing themselves as Russians: Moscow and Saint Petersburg had not been shy deporting many of the rebellious communities in Siberia and replacing them with good and loyal Russians. There were also common citizens who wanted independence. To sum up, the first cities ‘liberated’ by the Polish 1st Army in Livonia were the scenes of awful events. Decades-old feuds were settled in gruesome fashions, civilians and prisoner of wars were shot by firing squads and many newspapers had horrible stories to tell the next days. Southern Livonia became a nightmare and then the battlefield became worse as Russian reinforcements arrived. The 16th and 17th Army had finally completed their mobilisation and were sent to stabilise this part of the front. The Union had better guns and doctrine, but it did not mean too much this time as their supply lines were completely overstrained. On October 15, the two Russian Armies proved they were able to win – if only by filling the defensive lines with their corpses. Losses were heavy on both sides, but the Union was the defeated party here as their spirit of victory disappeared and their chances to destroy Russia for the short-term were over.
The Russian mobilisation was now functioning at full regime. Hundreds of thousands men were now joining the frontlines. On some parts of the Eastern Front the Empire had lost up to one hundred and fifty kilometres of land, but the advisors fo Nicholas II were confident the worst part was over.
And in a way they were both right and wrong. On the northern front, the Entente was definitely gaining the upper hand. Sigismund IV and President Kuusinen had not managed to force a united high command between their generals and the result was the Finnish armies continuing to attack the Entente lines as the central front in Poland was becoming static. General Moratov, commanding the Russian 8th Army, took this as an opportunity to grab his fair share of reinforcements and counter-attacked with a superiority of three-to-one. The Finnish 1st Army in the first hours of October 27 was consequently the target of an apocalyptic bombardment at a moment they were convinced they had the enemy dead to rights.
Hours passed and the Russian heavy artillery transformed the battlefield into a charnel house before unleashing tens of thousands men. The Finnish defence was annihilated, the infantry drowning their Nordic opponents under sheer numbers, cavalry on the flanks harassing the feeling soldiers and machine guns massacring all resistance. By the second week of November, Finland had managed to stabilise the front...thirty kilometres into their territory. All talks of taking Saint Petersburg were now ended and the Finnish 1st Army was a beaten force which would require months to be a credible threat again. General Moratov was celebrated as a hero by Moscow and the rest of the Entente.
Further south, events proved far less funny to listen to for Tsar Nicholas II. When the Great War started, it was assumed that between Greece and Transylvania, the Entente had largely the means of getting rid of Serbia. The Hungarians had sent a few divisions guarding their frontier with Russia and Transylvania, but these formations were third-rate troops. As two-thirds of Regensburg armies had already been sent westwards to fight the French regulars of Louis XVIII, the Serbians should not prove to be difficult to beat.
Unfortunately for the men making these predictions, the Greek had suffered a deep psychological trauma when they were defeated in the last war and were in no mood for offensives. Besides, the population and many ministers felt they had been ‘tricked’ by the terrorist attack having bloodied the streets of their capital. Thus, the Greek stayed firmly in the defensive, at the great annoyance of their allies. The tsar of Transylvania nonetheless ordered his men to go on the offensive...which ended with the Serbians proving a far more redoubtable opponent and pursuing the routing Transylvanians inside their own territory. By the end of November, the Serbians were slowing down, but it was more due to winter than the strength of the opposition. Nicholas II had no choice but to send more troops from the Ukrainian garrisons...and watch over ‘Tsar Boris’, who was showing disquieting signs of mental stress.
It was an understatement these news didn’t please the rest of the Entente members. Nicholas II had promised them a decisive victory or two, and for the moment the Russians hadn’t managed to force Finland to concede defeat or convince the Dual Republic from shifting their focus eastwards. It was good Greece was on their side and the Ottomans stayed neutral (a neutrality enforced by generous French donations and debt erasures), as Russia economy was now suspended to this trade flow connecting the Black Sea to the rest of the world. The Baltic was lost for the Entente, but as long as the French and Spanish warships controlled the Mediterranean, the trade and economic advantage was on the Entente favour. But there would be little help for the Western front...
The long anticipated (well, by me) Russian update. And the poor Russians can’t get a break. Sure one offensive is beaten back and the other is stalled. But again the Russians bleed.
Still they did well, but worse is yet to come. Thanks for this update!
Thanks a lot!
Yeah, the Russians are in a complicated situation where they have been unable to satisfy even a minor objective of their pre-war strategies. They have just the consolation they're still in the fight on the Eastern Front.
And yes, worse is definitely coming.
Since OTL is a Russiascrew (well, at the very least it’s people), can I beg for a boon? Would be nice not to have the dozens of millions of deaths the Empire / Union had in the 20th century...
Well, at least they will be on the winning side? Although, at the rate that they are bleeding men I’m not sure now they plan on sustaining a offensive push.
I will try to keep things realistic but it's particularly telling that Russia has done better ITTL than OTL (which indeed as many have noted is a Russia screw). There will be important losses, but the number of deaths from the 20th century is nearly impossible to imitate.
Winning side, losing side...sorry but I won't spoil the outcome of the conflict.
I’m sure both sides will have a Pyrrhic victory at best. And cheers for the effort of writing the best timeline you can, it’s appreciated!
It's the problem with world wars, they kill an entire generation of young men, cost the equivalent of budget and too often the victory is really painful to swallow...thanks for the support!
Then again as you said otl is still much worse for Russia. So far, the war is still steadily going in their favor.
Dark autumn (Western Europe September 1897- December 1897)
The chances of avoiding a major war on the soil of the British Isles had never been high. English and Scottish cordially hated each other, the diplomatic relationships had been execrable for the last two decades and the leadership of each government had developed a heavy dislike for each other. The Scottish thought their hated southern neighbours were responsible for the limited wealth and prosperity their country had suffered in the last years of the nineteenth century. The English considered the people they had to share a northern frontier with unwashed barbarians and warmongers of the worst sort. When one studied the relationships or rather the lack thereof, it was downright miraculous the war had waited 1897 to be started.
The main reason, of course, was the great numerical superiority of the English forces over their Scottish counterparts. For every regular soldier garrisoned from Edinburg to Kirkwall, the English could arm two or three...and London had sent many volunteers in Africa, the Caribbean and South America to defend their interests in the colonial wars. On the naval side, things were definitely worse. The English had built ten battleships and a considerable fleet of cruisers and fast auxiliaries on their own resources while the citizens of the Kingdom of Scotland, hampered by budget difficulties and a record of government creations, had two battleships in service and one was foreign-built. Whether they liked it or not, Scotland had a disadvantage of over five-to-one in tonnage for the warships, and it didn’t count the reinforcements the French and the Irish could send if it wasn’t enough.
It was evident once the declaration of wars were made Scotland was going to endure a terrible naval blockade and Marshal Forbes –supreme commander of the Scottish military forces – had no choice but to plan for a short and victorious war, since his country would not have the strength of launching more than two big offensives.
On September 23, Operation Border began. The entire strength of the Scottish 1st Army attacked on the eastern section of the Scottish-English frontier, crushing two divisions and breaking through the pre-war defensive works. The result was anything but pretty. The threat the perfidious English were posing to Edinburg was erased for the time being, but the regulars of Edward VII defended their positions tenaciously and inflicted severe casualties on the invaders.
More delicate, the Scottish had managed to defeat decisively a couple of divisions but the English army was far from destroyed. Despite an impressive fast march southwards, the railways of the English Crown were even faster and when the 1st Scottish Army was seventy kilometres away from Newcastle, they were intercepted by two newly created English armies. The result was a bloodbath for the best part of the last half of October, costing thousands of lives. Ultimately, it was a bloody draw and the exhausted armies began to erect the trenches and the fortresses they needed to consolidate their positions.
Officially, it was a glorious victory for the Scottish army who had managed to advance deeply into enemy territory, hold its positions on the western front and discourage the risk of an amphibious landing on their western coast.
Unofficially, the reason there had been no landing was because the Irish had been tasked by the Entente to conquer the Danish-held fortresses of Iceland, an endeavour costly in supplies, warships and men. Marshal Forbes made no mystery in front of his King and the ministers that it was a situation the Scottish population could not win. Edinburgh could and would launch a new offensive as soon as possible in 1898 but the odds of destroying the English 1st, 2nd and 3rd armies facing them were problematic at best. Some politicians liked to convince themselves that London would accept a negotiated peace but nothing was less sure. The arrival of a single Irish division in November worsened the numerical disadvantage and emphasized how alone Scotland was on this theatre.
The Danish and Norwegian Navies would not come, aware the French and English just waited an excuse to form a line of battle and eliminate the threat they represented. As long as the Central Alliance had this fleet in the Baltic, more than twenty battleships were immobilised and unable to help on other oceans and seas.
This did not mean the Entente had not its fair share of major problems in Western Europe. France had poured millions of francs in fortifying the frontiers Westphalia and Dutch Germany shared with Saxony, but Plan Attila had ridiculed these efforts and opened a terrible wound in their flank. The frontier with Bavaria had been deliberately demilitarised, since Bavaria was absolutely neutral. And to make matters more complicated, in addition to the Saxons they had the Austrians forces to deal with too, negating in part their superiority in equipment and numbers.
The Westphalian regiments who did not receive in time to the order to retreat from their frontier positions were annihilated under a torrent of fire and the Union armies surged westwards to fight the oncoming French 1st Army. It was east of Ulm the great confrontation was fought. For the first time in history, thousands of machine guns were the hands of the Entente and the Alliance, steel-dirigibles dominated the skies and the sound of the cannons was heard hundreds of kilometres away.
At first the French were forced to cede ground in the first weeks, a consequence of the Westphalian command structure collapsing and the relentless assault of the Saxon and Austrian waves but by the third week of October the Alliance offensive stalled and Marshal Deprès ordered a counter-attack. The French artillery transformed the landscape into an apocalyptic nightmare, projecting earth and human corpses so high the soldiers on the first lines thought it was raining blood and gunpowder.
Marshal Sturm of the Saxon Imperial Army didn’t insist and prepared his troops for a fighting withdrawal. Ulm and Stuttgart had not fallen and the implacable juggernaut of French troops was now fully effective. Hundreds of thousand men were coming from the other side of the Rhine and the only way the Alliance could hold was to take prepared positions. The French 1st Army tried to break through the former Westphalian positions but their advantage in siege train had been drastically decreased. Saxons and Austrians had learned well the lessons of the past and the doctrines the French used. The French counter-attack, Operation Sans Peur, bogged down without repulsing the invaders. Trenches were built on hundreds of kilometres and the two armies rushed northwards and southwards, trying to flank the opponent and gain the upper hand.
Emperor Gustav and his generals, aware this was a critical moment of the war, thinned out the divisions guarding the Danish frontier, betting on the Danish cautious behaviour and their defensive fortifications. A new Saxon army, the 5th, was mustered and attack Dutch Germany on the northern sections which had not yet been reinforced, trying to reach Amsterdam before the Entente could come to the rescue.
The issue was that Dutch Germany was not Westphalia. The latter had had time to forge itself a national identity in the last decades, and while everyone knew they were living in a French protectorate, the country itself was prosperous, industrially in the leading wagon and the liberties of expression had progressed enormously. They were also under no illusion the Saxons had their best interests in mind, Emperor Gustav I and his policies of expansion in Africa being well-documented. After what had happened to Bavaria when the subjects of the martyr Maximillian II had declared their neutrality, the Entente was considered a solid choice. While the Westphalian army suffered appalling losses, support for the Kingdom of France and their allies rose and Paris was quick to capitalise, promising loans at extremely low rates, building brand-new hospitals and generally infusing a lot of resources to make sure Westphalia was not going to collapse economically. After the front was completely stabilised in mid-November 1897, the Entente observers could truthfully report Westphalian support for the war had never been higher.
In Dutch Germany, this support didn’t exist. It didn’t help that on September 26, Rudolf II was assassinated by a partisan of Dutch independence many suspected to be completely insane. There was no government of national union like it was done at Paris or at Stuttgart. Saxon support was also far higher, as neither the Hessians nor the Dutch had enjoyed the successive treaties imposed on them by the French Kings and Queens. The outcome was particularly disastrous for the Entente. In the first weeks of the war, several cities in Holland and Hesse went over to insurgents, the local garrisons rallying to independent committees or joined as Saxon auxiliaries. The Alliance did not let the opportunity pass by and by the time the race to the North Sea was over in early December 1897, a third of Dutch Germany was lost to the Entente.
As the trenches and fortifications were consolidated on this lengthy battlefield, the French repression fell like thunder over the German insurgents. Thousands of men who had chosen to support Saxony were executed; sympathisers were condemned to decades of forced labour and would die soon to boost the demands of the Great War and entire provinces were put under martial law since the local authorities were outright treacherous or incompetent to maintain order.
The Saxon-held lands were not scenes of great celebration parades. Saxony naval trade was now limited to the Baltic and the kingdoms and republics they could trade with had not the kind of material surplus they wanted. Bavaria and the German they had conquered would have to bear the brunt of the war effort and the orders from Dresden were incredibly brutal. Workers whose job was of critical importance were recruited whether they wanted it or not and sent away from their families, the big companies were all purchased by the Saxon government for desultory sums. In Bavaria, the Empire and the Dual Republic began a politic of economic robbery and extortion, taking everything of worth and more. Rebellions and the remnants of the Bavarian army were put down with extreme violence. A storm of violence had fallen over Western Europe and for the German civilians, the future seemed incredibly dark...
can you give a map of the front' line in europa ?
Hum, what about Switzerland?
Also, it's game over for you now Scotland.
Edit: and the Spanish too, what are they doing in Europe?
Will do one for next week.
Switzerland is busy defending Liechstenstein against the Austrian regiments and their own frontier. This is a very limited front for the moment, I concentrated on the big ones there will be mentioned in another update.
The Spanish at the beginning intended to send troops to other fronts but they're forced to send a far larger proportion of their best soldiers in North Africa and the majority are rearmed with new weapons as the current equipment is judged...unsatisfactory.
Separate names with a comma.