The New Kratocracy: A Timeline of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

I’m usually a serial lurker on this forum, but quarantine boredom has led me to actually finally write a timeline. Most of this focuses on after 1900, the POD is just in 1889 (if this needs to be moved I happily can). If anyone does read this, please do give me tips on things I can improve, this being the first time I’ve written a TL - any help/pointers are greatly appreciated. Credits must also go to Jester’s excellent but sadly unfinished Black Horse TL, which I’ve drawn from on some of the earlier bits.

Anyways, hope you enjoy!
 
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Prologue
The New Kratocracy: A Timeline of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries


“We shall not trouble you with specious pretences … since you know as well as we do that right as the world goes, it is only in question between equals in power, that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
~ Thucydides, The Melian Dialogue



(See Above) Georges Ernest Boulanger, Marshal of the Kingdom of France

PROLOGUE:
The short lived French Third Republic can perhaps best be described as little more than a nation in a state of perennial chaos. The defeat in the First Franco-German War had left a gaping hole not only in French territory, but also in the political sentiments of the citizenry. Once again the French public were bitterly divided on an issue that had hampered France ever since the revolution so long ago - the dissonant choice between monarchism and republicanism, and the many opposed variations in between. Whilst the flight of Napoleon III in 1871 had left a republic as the only immediate option, this itself was little more than a temporary solution deferring a true lasting choice to the indefinite future. Temporary of course would soon become permanent in the time that followed, with rival claimants to the throne, political strongmen, and ideologues alike repeatedly rearing their heads whenever such a choice was attempted - often to the effect of collapsing the government of the moment. Unsurprisingly in the years subsequently France was a country marred by political chaos, enduring some 14 separate cabinets in just 10 years, and a paralysis in domestic affairs almost unrivalled by the fellow great powers of the world. It is thus perhaps no surprise that France was so very ripe once more for yet another revolution.

“The general impression is that the Republic is at the end of its tether ... We shall have revolutionary excesses and then a violent reaction. What will emerge from this? Some kind of dictatorship. There is no government in France."
~ Paul Cambon, French diplomat (~1889)​

The rise of General Georges Boulanger nonetheless is a curious one. A decorated military veteran garnering mass popularity, Boulanger was little dissimilar from the other regimes that had seized power in the revolutions since Napoleon. Boulanger had sensed rightly, that the country had grown weary of the incessant change of ministries, and of the conceited intrigue and wrangling in the assembly; that it felt that the best men were not at the head of the state, and that it had conceived a profound disgust for parliamentary government, and a good deal of contempt alike for career politicians. Neither a politician nor an aristocrat, politically minded and yet popular, Boulanger was hence well placed to harness such sentiments and seamlessly propel himself to power.

However what in particular is so curious about Boulanger is neither his background nor his beliefs, but rather the basis of such popularity. That he garnered appeal from so many disparate factions of French society, each united by a passionate hatred of the status quo - if little else (a feature that would ultimately help to doom his regime in its later years). Through 1887 to 1889, aristocrats and bonapartists, radical republicans and communards, orleanists and militarists alike all jumped on the proverbial Boulanger bandwagon, rallying against the elites of the Third Republic. Each group seemingly projected their own ideal on the blank slate of the General, simultaneously believing he would both restore conservative Catholic dominance and reestablish the monarchy, yet paradoxically was also a closet leftist who would at last set forth a fair deal for the working classes. Of course it was predestined that sooner or later this contradictory coalition would at last collapse under its own labyrinth of inconsistencies.

The General’s undefined yet captivating manifesto of Revanche (revenge against Germany for the War of 1870), Révision (revision of the constitution), and Restauration (the return of the monarchy) rallied a remarkably broad coalition that saw Boulanger’s popularity continue to yet further skyrocket as the years progressed. By 1889, he had repeatedly won elections across France without standing, had garnered songs and rhymes venerating him, and together with his beloved black horse, had become an unreserved icon of the Parisian population. Not even his marked deficiencies at oratory or lack of concrete policies could stop his popularity from soaring to ever greater heights. The January 1889 Legislative Election would therefore prove the final hurdle on the upwards path to “le nouvel ordre”.

On the 27th, following a crushing victory against his opponent to become a Parisian Deputy, enormous crowds of their own volition began to amass across the capital, cheering on Boulanger and rallying that he should seize power outright. The governments immediate response - declaring the election void and demanding Boulanger to High Court on charges of treason [1], only sought to further add fuel to the fire. Within hours the protests in many cases had devolved into open rioting, bringing the capital into a frenzied gridlock. Whilst the General did not opt to appear for several long and tedious hours (some have speculated that alongside his mistress he was having doubts about the whole affair, however most have instead concluded he was simply allowing time for the crowds to grow), he would at long last appear before his adoring masses later that evening [2].

Proclaiming a new France, Boulanger had finally met his “Rubicon moment” with all pieces perfectly set in place. Together with the Parisian mob that would compose his motley army of protesters, triumphantly they would advance up the Champs-Élysées that eve in the now infamous March on the Assembly. By morning, Boulanger’s France had arisen. Destined to set in motion a chain of events that would utterly redefine the course of Europe and the world...



[1] These charges OTL led to Boulanger fleeing France in 1889, and his movement rather quickly evaporated after.
[2] POD, in reality he dithered and instead chose to spend the night with his mistress.
 
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Le Nouvel Ordre
LE NOUVEL ORDRE:


(See Above) Protestors on the steps of the Assembly during the March on the Elysée, January 27th 1889

"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen"
~ Vladimir Lenin

In the hours and days that followed the notorious March on the Elysée of January 27th, the government and established political order of France would be swiftly and utterly dismembered. Ostensibly justified by the General to ensure fellow Boulangist candidates could peacefully take their seats in the assembly - events following the march would rapidly spiral, seemingly out of the control even of Boulanger himself. President Carnot, Prime Minister Floquet and the entire government were compelled to resign. The assembly was abruptly dissolved, and dissident cabinet members and deputies rounded up and arrested. In short succession the most loyal of Boulangists would set up a provisional government in his name, later coined rather romantically as the “New Directory”, and would soon proclaim the General himself as Marshal of France.

News of the coup d’etat taking place in Paris unsurprisingly disseminated across France at breakneck pace - information that the conspirators to an extent openly encouraged. Such was the scale of discontent within the Third Republic, telegraph stations in Paris were soon overwhelmed with pledges of allegiance from military commands across the nation, assuring Boulanger that his newfound grip over the country was secure. With majority support from the upper echelons, and the working classes similarly near guaranteed, the little internal opposition to the new regime that remained would lay largely at the gates of the assembly. However even such political opposition itself tempered in the weeks that followed - Boulangists control over the key apparatus of state made resistance utterly hopeless, and ultimately only the more radical members of the assembly - in particular the Opportunist Republicans under the leadership of Jean Casimir-Perier [1] - would flee Paris to exile in Belgium in hope of carrying on the fight. From an objective perspective the March on the Elysée can therefore be characterised as a textbook coup d’etat, executed almost to complete perfection.

As the dust of the previous tumult settled the provisional Boulangist regime, the “New Directory”, would soon coalesce around six key figures. Boulanger of course sat as Marshal of France [2], and was joined by Count Arthur Dillon, Paul Déroulède, Maurice Barres, Henri Rochefort, and Arthur Meyer. Count Dillon, a lifelong friend of Boulanger would serve as Foreign Minister, and would later be appointed to head a constitutional convention to establish a more permanent political settlement for France in lieu of the overtly temporary directory. Déroulède, leader of the right wing nationalist League of Patriots would assume control over the Interior Ministry, and would spend much of his focus relentlessly prosecuting perceived enemies of the regime - including the former President Carnot and much of his government, whom would soon find themselves charged with treason and exiled to New Caledonia. Barrès, a rising star of the past few years within the Boulangist coalition, took the reigns as Minister of the Colonies and as a key spokesperson of the regime (a role which would see him rather humorously depicted as Boulanger’s talking parrot by the British tabloid press). Rochefort, somewhat of a political chameleon who had jumped in with the Boulangist movement in the mid-1880s, would be given charge of the Finance Ministry, and would go on to implement a number of left-leaning policies that would help to garner the regime sympathies from the left. Lastly Arthur Meyer, the firebrand editor of the newspaper “Le Gaulois” and head of the Committee of National Protest (an ad-hoc organisation which had been used to coordinate the pro-Boulangist press), set about to lead the takeover of numerous newspapers across the country in the interests of "preventing agitation and confoundment” [3], and within a few weeks of the coup would find himself in effective control of almost all French press outlets.

The first actions of the directory primarily sought to shore up its support and assure its varied coalition of its intentions. Naturally this involved an immediate escalation of diplomatic hostilities against Germany, alongside a promise to convene a constitutional convention within the year to “resolve all and any political and constitutional problems that confound France and her people’s”. Furthermore under the stewardship of Rochefort, the finance ministry would also enact a number of policies in the immediate month subsequently. Improvements to working hours and conditions, a freeze on food and commodity prices and the nationalisation of the telegraphs and railways [4] would all be swiftly directed, earning the otherwise predominantly right-wing regime a groundswell in support from leftist factions. In particular the Possibilist Congress - a breakaway group from the International Workers Congress [5] - would go on to avidly endorse the policies of Boulanger and his directory, and would ultimately become a key token of Boulanger in his efforts to demonstrate his legitimacy via broad appeal across French society.

“Boulanger is a political blank slate, upon which anyone could write of their hopes and dreams, their visions of the future and the ideal system of governance."
~ General Edouard Vaillant​
Despite such varied actions by the directory, the focus of Boulanger personally would however remain fixated on his project of “Revanche”. Almost immediately upon seizing power, Boulanger sought to complete his reforms to the French Army as quickly as possible ready for mobilisation. The General remained cripplingly self-aware that no matter what temporary domestic support he could garner, ultimately his fate would rest in delivering his promise of successful revanchism against Germany.

Thus the domestic reactions of jubilance to the new regime and in many cases the almost socialist measures introduced, can be starkly contrasted to the grim international response. Across the continent foreign ministries sat aghast at the rapidly spiralling developments in Paris, certain that war would shortly follow. In the British Foreign Office the reaction was privately one of universal dismay, fearful at the rise of yet another Frenchman promising to bring his nation to unrivalled glory [6]. Whilst the promise of an eventual restoration of the French monarchy come the constitutional convention at least tempered fears of an outright dictatorship, the appointment of aggressive revanchists throughout the directory made it certain what perilous course lay ahead.

However such reactions across the channel could little compare to the reaction of Imperial Germany, who almost immediately withdrew their ambassador and began mobilising their armed forces in preparation for the inevitable coming conflict. Newfound Chief of the Imperial German Staff, Alfred Von Waldersee even went insofar as to advise a preemptive strike against France before Boulanger could fully assert his grip in the days following the coup - a position that whilst rabidly supported by the Kaiser, would be held off by Chancellor Bismarck in favour of armed caution to allow time for careful preparations [7]. Whilst used to seeing warfare as an extension of politics, the “Iron Chancellor“ remained hopeful that another war (that might disrupt the balance of power in Europe that he had worked so hard to achieve) could be avoided, and that Boulanger would at some point make a mis-step that Germany could decisively exploit.

Such German preparations however would prove shortlived, no such mis-step occurred. On the 22nd March, just two months after Boulanger’s rise to power, at last the expected arrived. The first shots of the Second Franco-German War had fired....



[1] Perier was the Vice-President of the Chamber, who by luck was not in the Assembly at the time of the March. After the arrest of Carnot, he would assume leadership of the Opportunist Republicans and flee to Belgium.
[2] Boulanger would also take direct control of the War Ministry in line with his wider foreign policy plans, and with the aim to quickly finish the reforms he started there during his previous tenure at the Ministry in the mid-1880s.
[3] Essentially an earlier Lois Scélérates involving the revocation of the 1881 freedom of the press laws.
[4] Ostensibly the nationalisation was carried out to benefit the public, in reality the main focus however lie in the logistic importance of the railways to the coming war effort.
[5] The Workers Congress had intiatlly been scheduled to take place in Paris in July 1889, however the regimes relentless arrest of Marxist press outlets and agitators, and later the war situation would force them to relocate to Belgium, a location increasingly becoming a hotbed of French exiles and opposition groups.
[6] British tabloids had much fun relentlessly mocking Boulanger as a Napoleon-wannabe throughout the early days of his regime.
[7] Bismarck was keen for France to be seen as the aggressor, much as in the Franco-Prussian War.
 
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Even with France fully unified against the Germans, Germany still has superiority in industry, population, and general staff, not counting the diplomatic genius of Bismarck pulling the strings of his decades-long plan to isolate France. Unless the French can achieved a quick victory using their short-term superiority (The German army in the late 1880s wasn’t the behemoth it was in 1871), I don’t expect them to win.
 
A very dramatic start so far with the coup taking place leading directly into a war. I don't see this war ending well although there was an earlier hint that regime would fall to domestic issues rather than external ones, so there might be some hope yet.
 
Intermission: The State of Opposing Forces
THE STATE OF OPPOSING FORCES:


(See Above) German forces during the First Franco-German War

“To know your enemy, you must become your enemy”

~ Sun Tzu

The Prussian victory in the First Franco-German War of 1870 to 1871 was startling in its rapidity and success to much of Europe. Coming upon the heels of the even quicker victory over Austria in 1866, Berlin had firmly established itself as the centre of military science on the continent, replacing France as the preeminent martial power in Europe. Prussia appeared to wage war in an entirely new way - one far more in tune with the Industrial Revolution and the modern state than the antiquated tactics and doctrines of her rivals. To some it might be said that the outcome of the first war had therein been predetermined, before even a shot had been fired. France had no chance.

However, this sudden thrust of victory almost undoubtedly gave way to complacency in the years that followed. The German Army of 1889 was certainly no longer the behemoth it once was. “Victory disease” as it may be coined, infected all aspects of the German high command, holding it back from further advancement relative to its enemies. By the opening of the second war, the Imperial General Staff had become a virtual gerontocracy - the average age of senior officers was 64, with the eldest some 76 years old. Moreover many had developed a reputation for technophobia - preferring to doggedly stick to their teachings and experience in the last war than embrace newfound innovations. As such the German army continued to utilise almost Frederickian tactics (for example massed infantry formations), still firmly believing in their superiority in organisation, in spite of growing vulnerability to heavy losses in face of rapid rifle fire. To add yet further problems, major divisions amongst the members of the General Staff themselves had recently emerged. The accession of the new Kaiser, Wilhelm II, prompted a growing and often fractious split between officers courting the authority of Bismarck and those who favoured the Kaiser - often actively working against one another to counterproductive ends.

This litany of deficiencies in the Reich can be starkly contrasted against the position of French forces at the start of the conflict. Since their humiliating defeat in the War of 1870, the French Army had undergone a remarkable transformation - often bewildering even its harshest critics. As early as 1878, Von der Goltz, a thoughtful officer tasked with observing the French manoeuvres of that year for the German General Staff, remarked to deaf ears that the French Army little resembled the one they had defeated 7 years earlier. In the two decades since their defeat, French infantry had adopted a series of revolutionary new tactics - such as breaking from company columns into smaller more nimble formations in order to assume a broader, loosely assembled front to effectively survive defenders fire. From 1886 (during Boulanger’s earlier time as a minister at the War Office) the Lebel magazine rifle had been introduced, yielding a rate of fire nearly twice that of the German M-71/84 Mauser. Boulanger’s reforms had also led to the introduction of smokeless cordite as a gun powder, far outperforming the Germans use of unstable gun cotton.

At at a strategic level, the French had similarly made great strides forward. Fortifications along the border were enormously strengthened, with reinforced concrete and steel towers constructed, and heavy artillery batteries set in place to secure them from any conceivable form of enemy attack. The reserves system had been utterly transformed, and the mobilisation gap with Germany filled. Between 1870 and 1889, French rail capacity between Paris and the border frontier had tripled, allowing the much faster mobilisation of troops to the frontlines. Moreover at the moment of the outbreak of the conflict, the French Army could command a greater number of infantry and artillery battalions in the field than the Germans could - even after mobilisation - and were also rapidly closing the disparities in cavalry battalions [2].

The completion of Boulanger’s reforms in first two months of his regime, permitted yet greater improvements to these characteristics - strengthening even further the system of reserves and the doctrines for general mobilisation in the event of war. In this time Boulanger would also set about to pioneer even newer innovations that might yield any possible advantage to France. New uniforms were rapidly introduced, mimicking the olive green-grey camouflage of their German counterparts. Alongside this Boulanger also pioneered the use of reconnaissance balloons, able to observe enemy movements high above the battlefield and scout out their positions from afar [3]. Thus from an observers perspective, it could be little in doubt that France had more than closed the gap against her enemy and that the Second Franco-German War on land would be fought far differently from the first.

On the naval front, the French even more so possessed the upper hand. Whilst clearly set on a rapid upwards track, the Kaiserliche Marine in 1889 remained a small regional force focused largely on coastal defence and little more. The Marine Nationale on the other hand was comparatively sizeable in breadth and scope, and would almost undoubtedly dominate the seas [4]. However the usefulness of such domination alas was severely limited - any useful blockade of German ports would risk incurring the wrath of Great Britain, who possessed enormous commercial interests with both France and Germany. As such French naval doctrine had consolidated on achieving a singular decisive battle involving small torpedo boats harassing larger enemy vessels, before focusing on token shore bombardments along the German coastline.

However in light of all this, French high command remained fully aware that even having closed and in some cases well surpassed the capacities of their enemy, any victory would nonetheless have to be seized quickly and decisively. No matter what advantages the French had gained in the short term on both the land and naval fronts, in the long term Germany’s inherent strengths in population and industry would likely prove insurmountable once fully deployed.



[1] OTL Germany didn’t fully rectify this list of problems really until post-1906, after which it once again became the leading armed force in Europe.
[2] France could muster 385 cavalry squadrons to Germany’s 465 at the moment of war.
[3] Whilst reconnaissance balloons were considered for use in the American Civil War, it took until WWI for them to be deployed on a large scale. In TL Boulanger changes this, to great effect.
[4] Both still suffered from technologically “old” fleets in the odd limbo period between the classic ships of the line and the development of the modern battleship. OTL almost every ship they possessed in 1889 was obsolete and scrapped within a decade.
 
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The Second Franco-German War, Part I
The Second Franco-German War:


(See Above), German troops advancing near French fortifications at Longwy

These violent delights have violent ends”

~ William Shakespeare
The continuing escalation of tensions between France and Germany following Boulanger’s coup, would at last come to fruition on the 22nd of March that year. Whilst historians continue to debate whether the skirmish at Conflans was in fact intentional (or simply a reflection of a growing distrust between individual forces on either side of the border) - the incident itself would nonetheless prove the decisive spark that would once again unleash war onto the continent.

The emerging reports of the 46 French soldiers dead following the bloody skirmish, would be all that was required for the directory to whip the French public yet further into a frenzy, and a declaration of war swiftly followed two days later on the 24th. This declaration was however wholly expected by the Germans - an almost unofficial state of war could be considered in effect beforehand, such was the level of dislike between the Reich and the new regime in France. Ambassadors had been recalled, armies raised, and military exercises conducted in as provocative a manner as conceivable throughout the period. Accidental or not, it is frankly a miracle no such incident had occurred earlier, especially so considering the determined efforts of several members of the German high command to unleash all-out preemptive strikes on so many occasions before.

These efforts, led largely by the Chief of the General Staff, Alfred Von Waldersee, had been formally demanded on at least three such occasions since Boulanger’s coup - and each time had been brushed aside by Chancellor Bismarck. However with war declared these imposed restrictions from the chancellory no longer held such weight, and the War Ministry was now fully able to assert its own prerogatives. The arrival of Marshal Boulanger himself to the border three days before the incident, and the general mobilisation order issued by the French a week earlier, validated to Waldersee the urgent necessity of such a preemptive attack before further enemy forces could amass for a counter invasion. Memories of the triumphant capture of Napoleon III in the last war remained fresh, and it seems undoubted that Waldersee sought a direct repeat - a swift and decisive German encirclement - that could earn him everlasting glory at home and the valuable favour of the Kaiser [1].

German strategy under Waldersee’s command therefore focused on a rapid offensive strategy outlined in the Westaufmarsch doctrine. On its Western front Germany could amass some 15 regular corps and 8 reserves, or around 1.1 million troops [2] once mobilised. Comparatively once fully deployed, the French could raise approximately 18 army corps and 11 reserves - some 1.3 million troops. Outnumbered and perhaps outmatched, to German high command therefore only an immediate offensive could conceivably permit a successful breakthrough before French forces fully raised themselves. Under Waldersee’s strategy, 5 German corps under the command of General Von Haeseler were thus to immediately engage the so-called “Charmes Gap” - a weak point in the French “Séré-de-Rivières” line of fortifications. Concurrently a further 6 corps under Prince Albert of Prussia were to attack in a simultaneous secondary offensive against the Epinal-Belfort line [3] of French defences to the South.

Waldersee hoped that these two initial offensives would draw newly-mobilising French forces Southwards, opening a vulnerable gap to the North around Longwy, further leading onto the plains of Lorraine. Once sufficiently diverted, Waldersee was to decisively strike at this gap, and in line with the Prussian tradition of envelopment manoeuvres - hoped to subsequently encircle the French Verdun-Nancy line of fortifications from the rear. The General then envisioned a dramatic decisive battle in which a large proportion of French forces would be surrounded on all sides around Nancy, destroyed, and the French will to continue the war therein catastrophically broken [4].


(See Above), Map showing the general location of the conflict, and the positions of French and German fortification lines on either side of the border.

Such a doctrine of attack though novel, was however highly predictable to French command, and historians today continue to hotly debate the viability of a such a plan in any scenario. The “Charmes Gap” due to its clear vulnerabilities, was an obvious position for the Germans to strike at, and therefore French doctrine focused on ensuring this stretch would become nothing less than a bloody “kill zone”.

The German defeat at Lunéville aside the banks of the Meurthe on the 2nd of April proved an ominous indication of this. Falsely believing that German artillery had subdued the French forces entrenched 1.5 miles North of the outskirts of the town, Von Haeseler would go on to lead a disastrous infantry charge at the French flanks. The dispersed loosely ordered nature of French forces, their superiority in rifle, machine gun and artillery fire, and their high level of entrenchment would rapidly become a bloody and potent mix. Within 2 hours, thousands of German troops had charged and fallen, their bodies scattering the open fields in face of heated machine gun barrels. Von Haeseler’s corps would ultimately suffer a calamitous loss, forced to retreat at the cost of some 21,000 casualties (compared to fewer than 9,000 lost by the enemy).

Similar defeat would follow at Hardancourt four days later where another German corps suffered approximately 7,000 casualties, and was likewise forced into a harassed retreat - in spite of initial numerical superiority. Only at Dompierre would Waldersee’s Westaufmarsch offensives see temporary success, however even this advance would stall once French forces had retreated into their fortifications at Epinal. Sustained German heavy artillery barrages against these defences resoundingly failed to yield results, and with the ongoing retreat of Von Haeseler’s armies further to the North, the siege would be abandoned by Prince Albert on the 16th of April in favour of a similar tactical retreat and regrouping.

Unbeknownst to Waldersee, the offensive doctrine adopted by the German military command in the early stages of the conflict had played perfectly into the overriding French war strategy. Under Plan XI, the French military had anticipated an initial defensive campaign in which the Germans would undoubtedly attrition themselves heavily against French border defences. With sufficient time (allowing a further period for mobilisation concurrently), German forces would eventually become more vulnerable to counter-attack, and a concerted French offensive could soon force them into a continual retreat from which they would be unable to fully stop and resupply themselves.

At Sarrebourg, and Sarralbe this envisioned strategy would come to its fullest fruition - with the continually retreating Germans under Von Haeseler’s command, suffering a further 18,000 and 7,000 casualties respectively against French counter losses of just 8,000 and 2,000 men. By the 7th of May despite a regrouping with half of Prince Albert’s forces, the situation for Von Haeseler’s armies was undoubtedly dire, and as such the General was actively preparing for the eventuality of a full defensive retreat behind the Saar.

The disastrous outcomes reported in the South greatly alarmed Waldersee and the men under his command. In spite of the clear failure of the early stages of his Westaufmarsch strategy, Waldersee would nonetheless settle on pursuing his attack on Longwy regardless. Against the grim backdrop, surprisingly however this campaign would yield some success. Waldersee was correct that a proportion of French forces had indeed been drawn to reinforce in the South, leaving the Northern regions more exposed. Waldersee’s heavy artillery would at last breach the French fortifications at Longwy on the 22nd of May that year, and the French corps defending it would be forced to retreat behind the Meuse river towards the end of the month.

However it would be at this point that even this campaign would similarly hit a proverbial brick wall. Perceiving that he had French forces on the run, Waldersee continued to aggressively advance, and soon opted to pursue a catastrophic further attack over the Meuse at Cesse on the 29th. German forces were unaware that the French had received urgent reinforcements from Verdun, and their almost 2:1 outnumberment only became apparent as troops stormed over river. In the battle which followed, almost 27,000 casualties would be suffered by the Germans, against just 12,000 Frenchmen. Historical accounts report of German troops finding themselves boxed in and driven into the river, and of the waters flowing red with blood from the piles of bodies flayed down in a haze of machine gun fire. To many the catastrophe at Cesse is seen as the decisive turning point of the war effort for the Germans, and provided the final nail in the coffin for the Westaufmarsch. Whilst Waldersee and the remainder of his force luckily escaped, it would be the final large scale offensive the Germans would undertake with their forces in the war.

By the 26th June, the Germans had lost all ground they had previously gained in the opening stages of the conflict. Defeat after defeat had led German high command to reconcile itself with a defensive strategy in hope of bleeding the French morale into submission. Von Haeseler’s armies were to retreat to Saarbrück and form a new defensive line along the Saar river. Meanwhile the remainder of a Waldersee’s forces in the North were to retreat to Metz to resupply, and then also regroup behind the Saar.

The French advance harassing Albert and Haeseler’s combined armies would proceed far faster than anticipated however, and within days even this new defensive strategy lay in tatters. By the 31st, Waldersee himself had found his position at Metz almost entirely encircled by French armies, and further without relief. To those watching from afar, the war had taken a disastrous and humiliating turn for Germany [5] - tables which had been so remarkably turned from the last conflict. However even in this precipitous state, Germany’s position was soon set to be cast yet further into darkness...



[1] Bismarck described Waldersee as “able but extravagantly ambitious, restlessly intriguing, [and who] more or less openly aspired to the chancellorship [himself]”.
[2] In total Germany could field 35 corps (23 regular and 12 reserves) or 1.6 million men once mobilised, however Waldersee was reluctant to withdraw troops from the Russian border in fear that Bismarck’s Reinsurance Treaty would not hold.
[3] Of the French Séré-de-Rivières line of fortifications, the Germans believed the Epinal-Belfort stretch to be the weakest.
[4] Effectively he envisioned a complete rerun of Sedan.
[5] As a note a major naval battle had also taken place in the Wadden Sea, both sides suffered heavy losses, but the French navy emerged victorious and proceeded to bombard a few German coastal cities. In the grand scheme of things this proved fairly insignificant to the wars outcome, so is omitted.
 
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What the heck happened to the Triple Alliance? One would think that Italy would be willing to join this war in order to stop a Boulanger France and gain Tunisia.
 
What the heck happened to the Triple Alliance? One would think that Italy would be willing to join this war in order to stop a Boulanger France and gain Tunisia.
Maybe the French offered them a deal? With the German army getting blooded like that there might be some retirements in the general staff soon.
 
What the heck happened to the Triple Alliance? One would think that Italy would be willing to join this war in order to stop a Boulanger France and gain Tunisia.
Next chapter will explain what was happening with the alliance system in the meantime.

Also I believe the triple alliance for Italy only applied if Germany was attacked by two separate great powers ie. France AND Russia. If it was just France they were only required to give implicit “support”. Plus I presumed much as withWW1 OTL, the Italians either way would take a policy of sitting it out for a bit and waiting to see who was winning before jumping in.
 
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Next chapter will explain what was happening with the alliance system in the meantime.

Also I believe the triple alliance for Italy only applied if Germany was attacked by two separate great powers ie. France AND Russia. If it was just France they were only required to give implicit “support”. Plus I presumed much as withWW1 OTL, the Italians either way would take a policy of sitting it out for a bit and waiting to see who was winning before jumping in.
No, the Triple stated that each signatories will support the other in case another Great Power attack her without provocation, it's open to interpretation but Italy at the time while not in a good shape economically due to the trade war with France ended just in 1898 had Francesco Crispi as presidente del consiglio, personal friend of Bismark and francophobe of epic proportion the only reason he will be forced to wait will be the general situation of the armed forces (Navy included) and the time needed for a mobilization;
that will be the only reason why he will not dow to support Germany immediately
 
No, the Triple stated that each signatories will support the other in case another Great Power attack her without provocation, it's open to interpretation but Italy at the time while not in a good shape economically due to the trade war with France ended just in 1898 had Francesco Crispi as presidente del consiglio, personal friend of Bismark and francophobe of epic proportion the only reason he will be forced to wait will be the general situation of the armed forces (Navy included) and the time needed for a mobilization;
that will be the only reason why he will not dow to support Germany immediately
Have an explanation(s) in mind anyway, but huh. Certainly not an expert on the matter but was largely thinking so from this passage. I thought Austria was supposed to if a single great power attacked (will also be explained), but since Italy had slightly different terms I presumed this below was the case.

 
The original treaty of 1882 at art.2 specify that Germany will come to Italy help in case France will attack her but that Italy will come to Germany help if France attack her without provocation...naturally as OTL there can be different interpretation of such article but at least i expect the italian goverment to alert the German one that at the moment what are their honest capacity in military term
 
Well, this is quite the reversal of fortunes after the last war. I'll be interested in seeing the update in regards to the diplomatic fallout from all of this. I can't imagine Britain is feeling too comfortable either way with the threat of a majorly resurgent France on their doorstep, even with Germany still being there.
 
I would think Britain and the rest of the European powers now look at France in a new light. They may decide they need to update their militaries.
 
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