Your favorite reason why Britain would DoW Germany anyway if Berlin went east-first in 1914

If Germany attacked Russia, not France or Belgium, in 1914, UK would DoW Germany because:

  • 1. It thinks France and Russia are the likely winners and wants to stay on their good side

    Votes: 8 2.4%
  • 2. It thinks a defeat or setback for Russia in Poland/Balkans alone makes Germany too powerful

    Votes: 88 26.3%
  • 3. It thinks a defeat/setback for Russia now means a defeat for France later, so preempt it now

    Votes: 54 16.2%
  • 4. Getting involved in war in Europe is a great way to distract from Irish controversies

    Votes: 17 5.1%
  • 5. It wants to capture Germany’s overseas colonies for Cape-to-Cairo route

    Votes: 9 2.7%
  • 6. It wants to have an excuse to blockade German commercial competition off from markets

    Votes: 18 5.4%
  • 7. It wants to destroy the German navy, either through battle, or coerced as part of peace terms

    Votes: 34 10.2%
  • 8. Britain actually wouldn’t go to war with Germany in this case

    Votes: 106 31.7%

  • Total voters
    334

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
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Britain would go to war with a Germany that struck east in 1914 without an attack on Belgium and France because:
  1. It thinks France and Russia are the likely winners and wants to stay on their good side
  2. It thinks a defeat or setback for Russia in Poland/Balkans alone makes Germany too powerful
  3. It thinks a defeat/setback for Russia now means an unacceptable defeat for France later, and Germany too powerful, so preempt it now
  4. Getting involved in war in Europe is a great way to distract from Irish controversies
  5. It wants to pinch Germany’s overseas colonies for Cape-to-Cairo
  6. It wants to have an excuse to blockade German commercial competition
  7. It wants to ensure the destruction of the German navy, either through battle, or coerced as part of a peace settlement
  8. Britain actually wouldn’t go to war with Germany in this case.
 
Britain doesn't declare war on Germany, it just provides every support but that to Russia and drains Russia's treasury into the Bank of England. Both Germany and Russia are threats to the British Empire and keeping Russia able to fight Germany without actually getting involved weakens both.
 
A big issue is whether France declares war on Germany and if so how aggressively France wages war. If France goes in, then the UK had a kind of commitment to protect the French coast from the German Navy. So then the question is whether Germany agrees not to attack the French coast with its navy. If Germany so agrees and foreswears any large territorial objectives in the West, then I think the UK stays out - at least at first.
 

NoMommsen

Donor
First :
Neither "Britain" nor any other nation or state on earth or in history was or is able to "think", to "want" or "do" anything at all. ... like declaring war.
The correct question would IMHO therefore be :
If Germany (or rather the german leaders/goverment) attacked Russia, not France or Belgium, in 1914, UK (or rather the british leaders/goverment) would DoW Germany because a majority of the cabinet was persuaded by : (and in the following "It" be replaced by "They".


Aside from such simplifying, misleading, formal concerns ...
None of the reasons 1. to 7. or any combination or even all together had a weight comparable to the threat of OTL :
loss of control of the continental channel coast

Each of the named reasons was at one point or another by one or another member of the british goverment - not necessarily only cabinet members - considered in the run-up of the Great War, singly, combined or in succession one, several or even all (maybe).
Nevertheless they did not developed IOTL the above named weight.
 
Here the British Empire faces a dangerous situation. If Germany defeat Russia, the next to go is France and then the continental balance jumps out of the window. Not to mention that the channel is now in German hands. So No 10 is going to apply the basic rule of British/English foreign politics since Elizabeth I: not to allow a single power to dominate Europe.

Britain is not going to stand aside and just watch,
 
Here the British Empire faces a dangerous situation. If Germany defeat Russia, the next to go is France and then the continental balance jumps out of the window. Not to mention that the channel is now in German hands. So No 10 is going to apply the basic rule of British/English foreign politics since Elizabeth I: not to allow a single power to dominate Europe.

Britain is not going to stand aside and just watch,
It still would need a Parliament in support. Without Belgium as an early casus belli, the casualty reports will drive the UK populace away from joining the war, and soon Ireland would be too much of an issue for the UK to get involved.
 
The British public will not fight for Russia. It is however in Britain's interest for Russia and Germany to bleed each other white so the Government will provide enough loan's and military aid to Russia to keep them fighting. This has the added benefit of building up Britain's arms industry to be able to support a British intervention in the war should that either become necessary or be forced upon the country without straining the country's finances. If, and only if Germany turns westward would British entry into the war be considered.
 
It still would need a Parliament in support. Without Belgium as an early casus belli, the casualty reports will drive the UK populace away from joining the war, and soon Ireland would be too much of an issue for the UK to get involved.
Give Lord Northcliffe a chance and he will be the Hearst of the Empire. Wilhelmite Germany was more than able to provide good first pages with the Rape of Belgium, so, sooner than later, Berlin will give something to anger the average Briton.

Anyway, if they don't bother to fight in 1914, they'll have to do in worst circusmtances later on.
 
Give Lord Northcliffe a chance and he will be the Hearst of the Empire. Wilhelmite Germany was more than able to provide good first pages with the Rape of Belgium, so, sooner than later, Berlin will give something to anger the average Briton.

Anyway, if they don't bother to fight in 1914, they'll have to do in worst circusmtances later on.
I agree, with that mainly, but with an entry delayed, the high casualty rates would likely lessen the will to enter the war, and instead make the British want to just make enormous profits off the war.
Also, I don't think that Germany would mess up that badly later on. The eastern front would be the only place where a similar story might arise, and as far as I'm aware that didn't happen. Once Ireland breaks out into Civil War, the UK joining WW1 would be almost impossible.
 
GB would not have jumped in. The east was really of little meaning to GB (Poland Belarus or Baltic states). A weakened Russia would be viewed as a positive. The naval arms race e had basically been won by GB by 1909. The key issues would be to allow no major nation to own the Belgium ports. If they had some agreement, then they would not jump in. By mid 1915 the horrors of this war would keep them out plus the astronomical profits would reinforce them staying out.

German conquest of these areas (most likely the war would have ended in1916) would not have been as severe as bl. However the German investment in these area would have massive to bring make them useful in the future., distracting them from GB interests in other world areas.
 

NoMommsen

Donor
... I would like to cast another two or three thoughts on choice 6. Ireland

If Btriatin isn't "in" in the first round ... and starts to become somewhat distracted by boiling up irish affairs ... let's assume Roger Casement still sails to Germany in autumn 1914 as IOTL ... and good ol' Zimmermann No. 2 at the foreign office on Wilhelmstrasse make yet another not-so-bright decision and publicised some irish supportive stuff, announcing/promising german support in case of inner-irish fighting esp. against british attempts to control the situation.

Might this be an 'opportunity' to bring Britain "in"to the continental frail as well ? ... though probably at the beginning only with naval means (nobody wants to slaughter our boys as the french get slaughtered ... atm) ?
 
The list is reasons but not casus belli.

I chose option 3 but really believe a combination of 3 or 4 options but will require a spark. WW1 was pretty good at providing sparks, so I think something or group of things will come up in the first few months to bring Britain into the war, most likely something at sea combined with peripheral issues like the seizure of the Ottoman battleships.
 
The list is reasons but not casus belli.

I chose option 3 but really believe a combination of 3 or 4 options but will require a spark. WW1 was pretty good at providing sparks, so I think something or group of things will come up in the first few months to bring Britain into the war, most likely something at sea combined with peripheral issues like the seizure of the Ottoman battleships.
That could be possible, I suppose. Would the populace be convinced though(while it could still go without, the UK would be better off with the support)?
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
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Reviving because this is a better place to discuss the ever-controversial, "was Belgium Britain's reason or bullshit excuse for getting into WWI"? question that recurs in some other ongoing threads:

I would simply not have invaded ::checks notes:: umm, neutral Belgium? Wait, that's who you invaded? Why?
I know this will spark some controversy, but the whole "To protect Belgium" thing is bullsh*t from the british.

Look at the stance of the political parties:
The conservatives were for war with Germany - Belgium or no Belgium.
The majority of the liberals were for neutrality and a minority of them for war against Germany regardless Belgium.
Labour was also for neutrality.

The idea that the british go to war to protect Belgium from Germany was to sell the war to the people and to liberals favouring neutrality.

But if we change the course and have the french go through Belgium there would not have been a british war against France. The idea of the UK being obliged to go to war to protect Belgium from France if the need arose was practically non existent in London's political circles before the war.It would have been a huge boost for those favouring neutrality in the UK so it was to be avoided - but there was no danger of any political party decididng to support a "go to war with France" if France attacked through Belgium. Belgium and its neutrality was only to be protected if it was from Germany and that makes the whole hipocricy of the UK evident. Not completely, but Belgium was less of the cause and more of the excuse of british entry to the war.
OTOH, w/o the invasion of Belgium there would have been far less *need* to enter the war.

The Franco-German border was too heavily fortified for there to be any decisive result there, and it wouldn't harm Britain if Mulhouse or Longwy were to change hands.

A threat to the *independence* of France would be a different matter, but nothing on the German border was likely to do that.

Hey @Faeelin and @Tibi088. An argument that @Mikestone8 makes here, and that @NoMommsen makes about the importance of the channel coast I think, in the end, makes the violation of Belgium a probable really important *strategic* difference maker for Britain...
None of the reasons 1. to 7. or any combination or even all together had a weight comparable to the threat of OTL :
loss of control of the continental channel coast
...even if @Tibi088 is correct and Britain was not going to have a perfectly legally based, even-handed, identical reaction to France violating Belgian neutrality instead of Germany. [I certainly don't think Britain would have had an identical reaction, and I do think Britain would have had a pro-French bias].

However, even if the Belgian 'scrap of paper' and the 'legal/moral', 'we had no choice' aspect sold to some members of the British Cabinet, parliament, and public had exaggeration and BS to it, whether Germany invades Belgium or not has a good chance of still being a decisive *strategic* factor on whether the British Cabinet chooses to go to war in August or Autumn 1914.

Why?

Because invading Belgium is bundled up with a German 'invade and crush France first' strategy. Invading Belgium, and succeeding, wins Germany the Belgian portion of the channel coast, and helps Germany win the adjoining portion of the French channel coast.

However, Germany would realistically only forego violating Belgian neutrality if it is taking the approach of defending in the west and attacking in the east.

We can say with quite high confidence that Britain is very strategically committed to keeping the channel coast out of German hands and keeping France independent and a great power, ie preventing France from being crushed and occupied.

If Germany is following an east-first attack policy, defending in the west, the utter defeat and occupation of France remains a real, but still hypothetical and somewhat second-order contingency, not an imminent threat.

Does Britain, even the British Conservative party hawks, see just as much reason and necessity and desirability to go to war, if the main German effort on the continent consists of defending Alsace-Lorraine, and smacking the Russians all around Poland and Lithuania? Does that warrant a DoW and blockade? Even if it does, does it warrant sending hundreds of thousands of tommies to assault German trenches in Lorraine when the French are doing a fine job butchering themselves already doing it and have plenty more men in their empire to conscript to do it?
 
Reviving because this is a better place to discuss the ever-controversial, "was Belgium Britain's reason or bullshit excuse for getting into WWI"? question that recurs in some other ongoing threads:





Hey @Faeelin and @Tibi088. An argument that @Mikestone8 makes here, and that @NoMommsen makes about the importance of the channel coast I think, in the end, makes the violation of Belgium a probable really important *strategic* difference maker for Britain...

...even if @Tibi088 is correct and Britain was not going to have a perfectly legally based, even-handed, identical reaction to France violating Belgian neutrality instead of Germany. [I certainly don't think Britain would have had an identical reaction, and I do think Britain would have had a pro-French bias].

However, even if the Belgian 'scrap of paper' and the 'legal/moral', 'we had no choice' aspect sold to some members of the British Cabinet, parliament, and public had exaggeration and BS to it, whether Germany invades Belgium or not has a good chance of still being a decisive *strategic* factor on whether the British Cabinet chooses to go to war in August or Autumn 1914.

Why?

Because invading Belgium is bundled up with a German 'invade and crush France first' strategy. Invading Belgium, and succeeding, wins Germany the Belgian portion of the channel coast, and helps Germany win the adjoining portion of the French channel coast.

However, Germany would realistically only forego violating Belgian neutrality if it is taking the approach of defending in the west and attacking in the east.

We can say with quite high confidence that Britain is very strategically committed to keeping the channel coast out of German hands and keeping France independent and a great power, ie preventing France from being crushed and occupied.

If Germany is following an east-first attack policy, defending in the west, the utter defeat and occupation of France remains a real, but still hypothetical and somewhat second-order contingency, not an imminent threat.

Does Britain, even the British Conservative party hawks, see just as much reason and necessity and desirability to go to war, if the main German effort on the continent consists of defending Alsace-Lorraine, and smacking the Russians all around Poland and Lithuania? Does that warrant a DoW and blockade? Even if it does, does it warrant sending hundreds of thousands of tommies to assault German trenches in Lorraine when the French are doing a fine job butchering themselves already doing it and have plenty more men in their empire to conscript to do it?
Honestly im not sure if the british would have gone to war if Germany took an east first aproach. There have been mp's who have been convinced by the belgian argument - they would be against the war. Im also not sure if the conservatives have been as uniform in their support of war as Lansdowne was painting them to be. Besides the conservatives and the liberal imperialists AFAIK some of the Irish were for war (they feared the effects on Home Rule if the UK was prevented from acting by them). So would there be a majority in the house of commons for war? I dont think we can answer it with any certainity. The radicals drive for neutrality would be tremendously stronger: OTL there was a false appearence of unity of the liberal Cabinet that was really important to convince the liberal MP's. There was the invasion of Belgium. All of this helped to convince them - here the liberal government is gone and there is no invasion of Belgium.

If the Cabinet would have fallen the likely next step by Asquith wuld have been to try to form a coalition Cabinet. If he succeeded it would have ment war. I think he would have succeeded. A convenient excuse would have been found - Luxemburg, or the sinking of a british ship or a ship with british passengers, the barbarism of the german invaders in Poland - or something else.

As for an only naval war: OTL a lot of the people voting for war thought htat it would be just that - and also cheap. Both horribly wrong but I dont see how it would be different in TTL. If the brits are in they will send troops.

Also to clarify: I can somewhat accept the Belgian cause in the case of MP's who have been convinced by it and were for neutrality before. Its still hipocritical as they would have not wanted to go to war if France invaded Belgium. But much less annoying compared to those who cited Belgium as a casus belli but have been for war way before the Cabinet decided to fix the breach of belgian neutrality by Germany as a trigger for war. Look at the Times for example - it has been strongly pro war from the get go and did not care much about Belgium - that is until the government fixed it as a trigger for war. After that it was all about Belgium.

Edit: Im not an expert on british politics - I have just recently read The Darkest Days by Douglas Newton and what I write are mostly based on that.
 
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If Britain finds reason for going to war, then working up a convincing enough casus belli, given the already prevalent anti-German mood of the populace at the time, is only a matter of some additional months of propaganda effort. It may not be as convincing as the German invasion of Belgium, but it doesn’t have to be. Just convincing enough to get that DoW.
 
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Before the declaration of war (and concomitant invasion of Belgium) Churchill had already told Royal navy ships in the mediterranean to defend French troopships against possible action by the Germans. Short of the Royal navy telling the him that they wouldn't obey illegal orders, one way or another Churchill by himself would force the war on the UK. The reality is that a sizeable minority of the liberal party wanted war, and them in conjunction with the Conservatives who wanted war, was going to get war, one way or another, the only real question is if its by a liberal or conservative government.

If Britain finds reason for going to war, then working up a convincing enough casus belli, given the already prevalent anti-German mood of the populace at the time, is only a matter of some additional months of propaganda effort. It may not be as convincing as the German invasion of Belgium, but it doesn’t have to be. Just convincing enough to get that DoW.
Yeah if we say that the war starts because Churchill (illegally) ordered the navy to defend French troopships, (I.e Goeben goes there instead of, or before heading for Constantinopel) and then everything goes as OTL, there might be interesting consequences post, or if it's seen as in hindsight to be a completely manufactured reason to go to war, that might have post war impacts but that's about it.
The closest you might get to early consequences is the Irish MPs might instead of regarding it as a 'just' war, might regard it as a final conservative stand to avoid home rule (which is what it was to many).
 
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Of the 7 reasons listed to go to war there 'd suggest only maybe 1 or 2 could be ruled out as practical reasons, but even these could be used as discreet extra rationalisations for the big reasons. The fact of the matter is that in general relations between Britain and Germany had deteriorated to a point where all British [planning was based on a war with Germany, none of which was dependent on any particular cassus belli. Its not as if the staff talks or naval agreement were predicated on the German invasion of Belgium, let alone the Ententes with France and Russia. WW1 was a war for joiners, countries like the US joined and went all in on a flimsy pretext 3 years into the horrendous fighting so I find the notion that Britain's entry being done on the most slender pretext somewhat unrealistic.
 
If Britain finds reason for going to war, then working up a convincing enough casus belli, given the already prevalent anti-German mood of the populace at the time, is only a matter of some additional months of propaganda effort. It may not be as convincing as the German invasion of Belgium, but it doesn’t have to be. Just convincing enough to get that DoW.
A British declaration of war in defense of umm, Tsarist Russia is not only going to be more controversial at home, it will engender far less sympathy in America.
 
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