To the Victor, Go the Spoils

OP




To the Victor, Go the Spoils

Welcome to the world of 'To the Victor', a graphical history of the world following a victory of the Central Powers in the Great War. I came up with this lore over how the Central Powers could have come to victory after playing and discussing Kaiserreich repeatedly for a few weeks and have been pondering it for about a year now. It irritated me that while I was at university learning about Strategic Studies, Military Theory and other area of Geopolitics I was reading a lore that, while in depth, interesting and entertaining; often required me to suspend belief about how a Government might act or how a certain event would pan out. Having spent years studying the consequences of a Nazi victory in the Second World War and with little real knowledge about the details of the First World War therefore I set out to make a realistic scenario where the Central Powers could truly have come out on top without having won decisively in the early war or changing the geopolitical decions of states during the war. For example I did not want to have a different party (such as Bull-Moose) be elected in the United States, or to try and make excuses for Wilson abandoning his global interventionist theory and not join the war when America did - because from a strategic perspective it makes sense that the US did. I took a lot of inspiration therefore from the very impressive timeline A Shift in Priorities by rast, which I encourage you to read if you have not (though it started 12 years ago and is still going so i wish you luck!), though in his timeline Germany manages to crack the science of developing more mobile tanks towards the end of the war.

My point of divergence is simple; On March 22nd 1918
Erich Ludendorff, Quartermaster General of the German Army and effective dictator of the country, awoke, dressed and stormed down the halls after only a few hours sleep in a 48 hour time period. He was exhausted, his own officers had noticed his gradual breakdown in attitude and even sanity from his repeated 4 hour nights or even missing sleep altogether. His offensive, Operation Michael (German Spring Offensive 1918), was already going off to a resounding success - not since the early stages of the war had his men covered so much distance with so much ease. Yet when his hand missed the railing of the staircase and he simply tripped down three steps his war effectively ended. The man was not killed, but five minutes or so later he was leaving on a stretcher after collapsing in front of the general staff and the Kaiser. By simply hitting the side of his head on the railing he had torn a blood vessel and inflicted on himself a small yet often fatal wound.

The reason this POD has been chosen is that I have tried to change history by the smallest amount possible with the POD to avoid unintended butterflies. Thus, this timeline will be Type I to II alternate history on the
Sliding Scale of Alternate History Types. I intend to approach this timeline from an almost scientific approach, using studies of German intentions in the post war landscape to create a world that accurately reflects how this post war plan would have panned out. This will not be retrospective timeline, and thus as time progresses suggestions or information will be welcomed. Contributions to the world too will be welcomed, but must be pre-accepted by me as the World Master before posting. I encourage well researched, detailed and realistic additions though; especially if you have a background in strategic studies or other studies of international relations or national politics. In lieu of this, anything that is not threadmarked will not be considered canon, however should contributors make consistently good and detailed additions to the world i'll consider adding them as an official contributor.

This will be updated intermittently so dont expect anything at specific times, but I hope you enjoy the story!
 
The Kaiserschlacht


The Kaiserschlacht

With a small but nontheless important numerical advantage, in March of 1918 the German Empire launched it's last desperate attempt to seize victory from the jaws of defeat. From the end of 1917 the Deutsches Heer had been able to divert some 50 divisions from the eastern front, with Russia in disarray and a peace finally in place at Brest-Litovsk, it seemed possible that the Reich could in fact survive what could be a deeply turbulent and difficult year. It would be Quatermaster General of the German Army, General Erich Ludendorff, who would lead the charge and plan the offensive. Ludendorff, a man who's career had been made on the eastern front in the war of movement that the Russian theatre had remained despite the stagnation and trench warfare of the western front, knew that if this offensive failed then the war was all but lost. American forces had begun arriving in France in June 1917, though few in their ranks were prepared or ready for combat and thus extensive training was required before offensives could begin. German intelligence estimated that American forces would be capable of offensive operations by August or even July. Therefore Ludendorff planned an extremely aggressive and targetted offensive using tactics learned from the eastern front. Instead of a general advance, ludendorff would strike in specific places along the frontline where the enemy was known to be weakest or in positions of strategic importance. These came in the form of three planned offensives; Michael, Georgette, Blucher-Yorck and Gneisenau - Michael being the main and most decisive push of the campaign.

Schooled in the battles of the eastern front, Ludendorff had seen how the Russian army could crumple under pressure once a hole opened in the Russian lines. As he explained it himself; "punch a hole, and the rest would follow". Thus while the German army would advance towards the vital strategic intersection in the Entente logistics train at Amiens, the city was not actually designated as a specific target in the campaign. This would change though on March 22nd when, after weeks of poor sleep or no sleep and doctors warnings against continuing the level of work he was putting in, Erich Ludendorff slipped and fell down the stairs at the German high command in Belgium. He did not fall far, but having hit his head on the bannister he soon passed out as a result of a bleed to the brain caused by a fracturing of the skull near the temple, bursting a blood vessel and applying enough pressure to eventually kill the ageing General in the early hours of the 23rd. Immediately Hermann von Kuhl would be appointed as Quartermaster General and the man actually in command, Chief of the German General Staff Paul von Hindenburg, took control of the offensive. Yet unaware of the change in high command, German forces pressed on in the field - now with a new clear target; Amiens. Alienated by Ludendorff and strengthened by the weak authority of Hindenburg, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had been able to convince the General Staff of the need for a clear target in the offensive. Now nine divisions intended for the 17th Army under von Below were instead were transferred to the 18th under von Hutier.

On the ground, a logistical crisis was taking effect. German forces, stunned by the avalibility of food and wine, were delayed significantly in their advance by an advance dependent on walking through land with clogged roads and a destroyed landscape. This slowed the delivery of food to the front, causing a bizarre slow retreat of allied forces where neither side wanted to engage and thus just waited for the other to start walking before themselves getting up and moving. The deployment of reserve forces solved this however, forces on the frontline now tacked north; opening up a central route of advance for the reserves whom now flooded into the gap, fresh and ready for combat. It would be these forces that would seize the small town of Villiers-Bretonneux on April 2nd despite fierce resistence of a small Australian brigade tasked with it's defence. With the fall of this vital position the German forces now had a heightened position from which to target Amiens which sat only a few miles away. Shelling began that evening, targetting the rail yard and the town's outskirts in an attempt to soften opposition as German forces once again pressed the attack on the 5th. Amiens itself fell two days later after extensive fighting that concluded with a panicked demolition of the vast Allied Munitions Dump by a British unit, the officer having been explicitly instructed to prohibit it's capture by German forces so as to ensure that they cannot continue their campaign and resupply. British forces now were well and truly cut off.

Then came Georgette, an Operation intended to be the main thrust of the whole offensive under the codename George... a fact that makes it's name easier to understand. Yet despite the downgrading of the size of the operation, it's target now remained the most significant pin holding the Entente war machine together; Hazebrouck. A strategic town of equivalent importance to Amiens due to it's position in the rail network, without which meaning rail supply of everything south of Flanders held by the British Army would be impossible, and thus continued operations in the region also impossible. German forces smashed through British lines using the same methodology used in the Amiens offensive, but this time against a now even less equipped British Expeditionary Force cut off from supply from the rest of France and in a state of flux as supplies were re-routed to Calais and Dunkirk. British forces crumpled under the weight of a German army now motivated not only by their victory at Amiens, but further by their desire to finally defeat the British once and for all. The fall of the town on the 15th therefore came as no shock to a demoralized and defeatist British High Command whom were forced, for the first time, to order the evacuation of the town of Ypres that had been held since the starting shots were fired in the war. The town's abandonment came as an enormous shock to the British public, and prompted rioting in several British cities; notably Birmingham and Manchester. British forces now withdrew to the river Yser and dug in; protecting the channel ports and thus their supply and unable to launch offensive operations, now only holding the coast to deny the Germans access to the closest point to the British mainland.

Elsewhere the offensive halted, German forces were redeployed and a sense of hope finally emerged in Germany after the slow buildup of resentment against the rule of the established order. In France, the Government lapsed into a state of chaotic paralysis, unable to act in any way other than to attempt to slow any potential German offensives by digging in around Paris and deploying stronger forces at weaker positions, now alleviated by the small reduction in the length of the line by the loss of Amiens. This mattered not though, as on May 27th the French 6th Army were attacked at the strategic position of Chateu-Thierry south of Lyon and in many places encircled entirely after the refusal of French General Denis Auguste Duchêne to adapt to modern fighting techniques and deploy a defence in depth with his forces. As such as soon as German stormtroopers breached the front line, entire sections of the 6th Army were systematically encircled and annihilated with no further lines of defence to slow the German advance. German forces now rushed into the gap in the line, capturing Souissons and Reims before being halted at the Ourqe river, barely 40km from Paris. Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the lion of France who acted as the lynchpin holding France together during this difficult time, now resigned. He had been clear he would never seek peace, and yet his cabinet now had lost the support of the public and the leadership of the country, especially after it had been made clear to Clemenceau by French Marshal; Foch only just under a month prior that if the Germans were able to break through the line following the fall of Amiens, the war would be over. Foch was correct.

On June 9th, after a week of indecision in Paris and desperate calls for help by the fragmented French Government, French Prime Minister Aristide Briand made the fateful decision to finally request an armistice from Germany. This came as Germany launched yet another offensive, this time labelled Gneisenau, to force France into submission after German forces had finally be halted in their advance. News of the German breakthrough north of Paris, particularly near Compiegne, prompted a mass mutiny across much of the Parisian front as French forces in some cases shot their officers and fell back rather than be encircled or killed fighting German forces. For Briand, this would make him one of the most distrusted politicians in France - and yet one of the most powerful. With so much blame being pinned on him, nobody dared see him removed from power for fear of themselves having to be 'the man that made peace', and thus when German terms were accepted on June 11th 1918 and an armistice officially went into effect, he remained in power to oversee the transition.

That same day, both Belgium and the United States too sought armistice, being offered similar terms to that of the French; withdrawal from the frontline, demobilization, evacuation from France and the surrender of large amounts of arms to German soldiers. All accepted; in the Belgian case there no longer remained a point in fighting, if France was lost soo too was all of the continent, in the American case the same could be said - after all why fight an enemy who has for all intents and purposes won when your contribution was so small you may actually save money and face by leaving. For Britain there was a different approach, German hegemony on the continent was so terrifying that the British Cabinet, and especially Prime Minister David Lloyd George, went into a state of denial. Instead they would deploy the British Army from Flanders to the Balkans, defeat the Ottomans and seek a favourable peace for all sides. But that is a story for another time...


1) All French, American & Belgian forces currently manning the front line to a depth of 35 km will retreat 35 km to the rear. Special conditions to units within 50km of the city of Paris will apply where units will only be required to withdraw 15km. This move must be complete by June 14th, 18:00 hours Berlin time.
2) All guns with a calibre greater than 105 mm will remain in position as will their ammunition and ancillary equipment and will not be moved to the rear.
3) No French or American forces additional to those which are present in France on June 11th, 24:00 hours Berlin time, will enter the country. French forces from other theatres of war, such as Italy and Greece/Bulgaria, will be garrisoned in Algeria.
4) All German prisoners of war and internees in French, Belgian or US custody will be released and repatriated immediately. This also applies to prisoners of war and internees from other Central Power states.
5) The Government of the France shall in good faith and with due haste inform Entente Governments of French unwillingness to harbour Entente forces so long as Entente forces remain in a state of war with the Central Powers.
6) The Government of the French Republic will immediately start to demobilise the French Army to the peace time level of 1914. Demobilisation must be complete on July 1st, 1918.
7) The Governments of the French Republic and Belgium agree to enter negotiations for a permanent peace treaty with the Governments of the Central Powers. The negotiations will be hosted by the Royal Dutch Government and will commence at Eindhoven on July 1st 1918.
8) This Armistice is in effect until June 15th, 1918, and may be prolonged if the French and US governments have complied with the terms listed above.

 
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