Ulster Fought and the Kaiser Won

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by KanonenKartoffel, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Threadmarks: Introduction

    KanonenKartoffel Well-Known Member

    Sep 23, 2018
    (Disclaimer: No, Imperial German Ulster does not feature in this timeline. At least, not yet.)

    The name of the Great European War, of 1914-1916, is in a sense as multi-faceted as the conflict itself. The name refers to the vast scale of the conflict, with armies
    larger than ever seen before clashing, death tolls reaching higher than had even been imagined in previous wars. The name refers to the all-encompassing nature of the war,
    both in terms of territory (in Europe, only seven nations were able to remain fully neutral, encompassing roughly 14.5 million people and only about 4.3 percent of Europe's total population)
    as well as in the manner it changed the lives of those living in both belligerent and even neutral nations. The name also indicates the great impact of the war - not only
    was it a massive conflict, the likes of which had never been seen before, but it also set Europe on the path that it remained on for most, if not all, of the 20th century
    and even beyond. The political crises in Germany and Russia alike brought the idea of a powerful, central monarch into harsh contrast with mass politics, while parliamentary
    rule was challenged, forced to evolve beyond what it had grown into in the previous centuries. Meanwhile Austria-Hungary, its own political leadership invigorated by the great
    prestige and clout gained from victory in the war, was able to reform into what is now seen by many as the definitive answer to ethnic nationalism, a true multi-ethnic state
    under the aegis of a dynasty but ruled by its many peoples.

    - Arnold Frankeson, introduction to The Great European War and Its Aftermath


    The words were famous only days after they were spoken. Before the week was over, hundreds of thousands of Germans could easily complete the sentence given only the first three words. "Auch im Kriege" became a sort of phrase of its own, thrown in at the end of another argument or used as a short. The words themselves held obviously incomplete meaning: 'even in war'. They were from a speech given by Philipp Scheidemann in the Reichstag in December of 1916; the full sentence was "Auch im Kriege ist Deutschland Rechtsstaat", meaning 'even in war, Germany is a state of the rule of law'. The speech encapsulated much of what would in the following year explode into prominence during the political crisis in Germany. It primarily addressed the conduct of German soldiers and occupation forces in the region often referred to as 'Ober Ost', an area under German occupation for roughly a year before its annexation in the Treaty of Stockholm. Once the war ended, civilian officials poured into the area, replacing the military-state with the peacetime institutions of the German Empire.

    What they found was bound to cause trouble; several major figures within the German Army had argued in favor of continued military administration of the region, knowing that an influx of reporters, civil servants, and similar - as well as many political figures looking to inspect or prepare the region for the next Reichstag elections in which its (at the time) roughly million-strong voting block could prove a great asset - would lead to issues. Their efforts failed, and as a result stories of arbitrary executions, forced labor and other conduct which had previously, under military rule, been seen as necessary but was now viewed by the critical eyes of liberal and social-democratic commentators as clear breaches of German law, came to light. When Scheidemann gave his influential speech in the Reichstag, many were still unaware of the details of what had happened in Ober Ost during the war. Reports from the area spread slowly at first, blocked where possible by state actors sympathetic to the army or simply dismissed as 'lacking sufficient evidence to report' by more conservative papers. Not long after the "Rechtsstaat Speech", however, the dam broke. It was impossible for a newspaper to avoid the topic, impossible for any politically-minded German to not find themselves with an opinion on the matter after being bombarded with names, figures, and citations of legal codes.

    But of course, for all of this to come about, the war that began in 1914 had to be won. But to find the seeds which grew into the victory of Berlin, Vienna and their allies, a look all across Europe is necessary, going from the familiar military academies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the inadequate ammunition stockpiles of the Imperial Russian Army and on to odder places, to London and onwards to Ireland. Once all the other pieces were in place, it would be there, in Ulster, that a decisive weight would be placed on the scales.
  2. Falkenburg CMII & Bar Monthly Donor

    Jan 9, 2011
    I am intrigued.
  3. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

    May 18, 2016
    Leafy Southern Blighty
    A map of Ulster and not Northern Ireland

  4. Threadmarks: Ireland and the Home Rule Crisis

    KanonenKartoffel Well-Known Member

    Sep 23, 2018
    Quick note before the main update: I was actually planning to do this yesterday, but some work related to it took a lot longer than planned so I delayed this part of the post.

    Then I spent almost all of the three hours and over a thousand words of writing just trying to lay out enough of the background of the PoD that it's actually coherent for someone who isn't already familiar with the situation; even then I've cut stuff (some will be tied in later, though) for length, because jeez and also because I want to make sure I'm writing UFatKW and not Ireland Is Complicated And Here's Why.

    So, instead of the original plan of one beefy update on the main PoD and the early development of the war, I'm going to mix-and-match a little, making it a big text update on the main PoD plus a map that says a lot about how 1914 goes but leaves room for another update.

    I'll also note here that I intend to stay fairly broad-strokes with the war itself; partly because I could very easily (I have both the inclination to and the books to enable it) go way too in-depth to reach 1915 any time before mid-2020 and partly because I want to focus on the post-war part of the timeline, as that's where a lot of the original ideas were and what I'm most eager to get into.

    So, then, without further preamble...


    Ireland and the Home Rule Crisis

    In 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland was merged with that of Great Britain, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Parliament of Ireland ceased to exist; 87 years later the Government of Ireland Bill 1886 (also known as the First Home Rule Bill) was introduced in the House of Commons and died there, unable to gain majority support. It was the first major attempt in Westminster to bring what was known as 'Home Rule' to Ireland after 1801, and would have resulted in the creation of a unicameral assembly to act as a devolved de facto parliament in Ireland, ending the participation of Irish members of parliament in Westminster. In 1893, the Government of Ireland Bill 1893 (AKA the Second Home Rule Bill), containing differences to the First Home Rule Bill but fundamentally focused on the same matter, as implied by the name. Unlike the first, the bill passed through the House of Commons only to be vetoed by the House of Lords; at this point in time, various Irish organizations had been campaigning for Home Rule for 23 years. It would be another 18 years until the Government of Ireland Act 1914 (AKA the Home Rule Act) passed after a constitutional crisis paved the way for its passing, allowing it to bypass the House of Lords after being unable to gain a majority there in 1912 or 1913.

    As the political battle in Westminster was coming to a close, the stage was being set for a very different sort of confrontation in Ireland. Amidst fears of "Rome Rule", an ascendant Catholic Church dominating politics in a new Irish Parliament, differing economic interests in the more rural southern Ireland and the industrial Belfast, and a total political overshadowing of the smaller Protestant population, over 471,000 signatures were gathered beneath the Ulster Covenant (which declared, for its over 230,000 male signatories, that they would "us[e] all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland [...] and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize [a Home Rule Parliament's] authority"). This pledge, made in late September 1912, would come into sharper focus the following year, when a 100,000-man-strong paramilitary force was formed: the Ulster Volunteers, a force dedicated to the resistance of Home Rule by whatever means proved necessary. As German weapons were smuggled into the country, the threat which lay beneath such statements grew into the specter of armed revolt.

    Of course, Ulster was not the only province of Ireland; its population was majority Catholic, Home Rule had been a key issue of the Irish party which had secured a majority of Ireland's MPs in Westminster. Without the fears that could be stirred up by the idea of the Pope ruling over and suppressing them, or that rural Irish would demand policies that cut into the core of their prosperity, the promise held within the Ulster Covenant was a threat. A threat seen by enough as in need of answering that in 1913, the Irish Volunteers were formed, taking on a historical motto ('Defence not Defiance') and a clearly-stated goal which placed them in firm opposition to an attempt by the UVF to break Home Rule: "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland", as stated by Eoin MacNeill, the organization's head. The Irish Volunteers had no body of signatories to immediately draw from, but rapidly grew until they reached almost twice the size of the UVF in the last days of peace. Just as the Ulster Volunteers, the force brought in German rifles to arm itself.

    With two large armed camps gathering strength in Ireland, the situation had already degraded significantly, but more fuel would soon be fed to the fire. In March of 1914, with the Home Rule Act soon to make its final visit to the House of Commons and expected to pass, the question of a reaction to the stated aim of the UVF to at minimum ignore and likely outright rebel against the new Irish Parliament swirled within the British Cabinet. The possibility of taking military action against the Ulster Volunteers was considered, and the resulting incident rapidly revealed the cracks in any plan hinging on using the British Army to do so. Believing "active operations" were to begin in Ulster, a number of officers made clear that they would prefer resignation or dismissal to the carrying out of these orders. The necessity of the Irish Volunteers could now be argued with this - if the British Army would not enforce its laws, defend Home Rule and the "rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland", then clearly the Irish would need to do so themselves.

    On July 28th 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In Britain, the final stages of the continental calamity had been outpaced just barely by the eruption of violence in Ireland. Only two days prior, Dublin was the scene of what became known as the Bachelor's Walk massacre; after confronting 1,000 freshly-armed Irish Volunteers, a force of British troops attacked protesters - described as throwing rocks and being hostile, but unarmed beyond said stones - with rifle fire as well as bayonets. The four dead and thirty-plus wounded sent waves of rage through Ireland, managing to bring the tension on the island to what would reveal itself to be just a few words below the point of boiling. It was in this environment that a carefully-prepared plan of the UVF was brought to its final stage of readiness. As Belgrade was already under the war's first bombardment, the UVF commander in Belfast sent a telegraph detailing that: "All difficulties have been overcome and we are in a very strong position", with a further guarantee that if the recipient were to "signify by the pre-arranged code that we are to go ahead, everything prepared will be carried out to the letter".

    The plan's origins are unclear, their source likely an officer who had gone over to the cause of what would become the Ulster Volunteers in 1910. Called "the Coup", it envisioned a rapid strike that would, seizing an opportunity to paralyze any response, be carried out by the UVF. While its source is unclear, their details are less so:

    1. Cut rail lines so that no police or Army could be sent to Ulster.
    2. Cut telegraph and cable lines.
    3. Seize all depots containing arms, ammunition, etc.
    4. All avenues of approach by road for troops or police into Ulster should be closed by isolated detachments.
    5. Guns of field artillery [caliber] should be captured either by direct attack - or else by previous arrangement with the gunners.
    6. All depots for supply of troops or police should be captured.

    This plan, if carried out rapidly and with all of its obstacles overcome as per the telegraph, would place the Ulster Volunteer Force in control of the province, requiring a large-scale military response to pry the likely dug-in defenders out once they had positioned themselves at its borders. Worse, such action would inevitably require either using potentially unreliable (to the point of outright joining with the forces of the UVF, or simply refusing orders that would bring them into conflict with them) formations or potentially reducing the available land forces to the point that usage of the Irish Volunteers to bolster them would become necessary. Finally, the same cracks that were present in the British Army were present in its Royal Navy.

    The reply came quickly, only hours before a meeting that could have changed the course of British (and, European, and by extension world) history, bringing reconciliation or at least temporary relief from the issue of Irish Home Rule and Ulster. But instead, the attention of those who had originally planned to meet for other reasons was seized by the rapidly-forwarded copy of one of a handful of messages that had slipped out of Ulster just before the last lines were cut. Even as continental Europe hurled itself into war, millions of men mobilizing in the following days, Britain itself was plunged into a bloody conflict within its own borders.

    Ulster, it had been decided, would fight.


  5. TimTurner Cartoon Phanatic

    Apr 11, 2015
    DFW area, Texas (no, Tibecuador)