WWI and ½
Part 1By Michael W Moore
"The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings"
What really happened – June 28, 1914 Kaiser William II of Germany was at Kiel for the annual Elbe Regatta. It was a time for yacht races and celebration.
The British had sent a squadron of warships and they were there as honored guests.
The Kaiser was the center of attention aboard his racing yacht Meteor V.
On June 26th, wearing his uniform as British Admiral of the Fleet, he went on board the battleship King George V. All later recalled the genuine warmth that the British sailors seemed to have for the Kaiser.
On the 28th there was a race and the Kaiser was aboard the Meteor. A telegram was brought out to him by launch, put in a cigarette case and tossed aboard.
The Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Hapsburgs had been assassinated in Serajevo, the tinderbox of alliances that was Europe had been lit, the yacht race was cancelled.
After the Archduke’s assassination Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia.
Winston Churchill wrote his wife that Europe was, "trembling on the verge of a general war’ and that he considered the Austrian Ultimatum, " the most insolent document of its kind ever devised".
The Ultimatum was designed to force Serbia to war.
But when Serbia replied and agreed to all of Austria’s demands with very little quibbling. It looked as if war might be avoided.
However the German High Command felt Serbia had to be chastised and was pressuring the Austrians to attack and to present to the world a fait accompli, even as the Kaiser told a friend on July 27th, "we are not at war yet and if I can I shall prevent it".
Then, an incident that was kept secrete until after the war. On July 28th, for the first time the Kaiser saw the full transcripts of both the Austrian ultimatum and the Serbian reply. He could see no reason for war.
The Serbian reply, "was a great moral victory for Vienna…with it every reason for war is removed…on the strength of this I should never have ordered general mobilization."
The Kaiser wrote, "I am convinced that on the whole the wishes of the Danube monarchy have been acceded to. The few reservations that Serbia makes in regard to individual points can in my opinion be well cleared up by negotiations."
It was too late. At noon the same day, barley an hour after the Kaiser penned those words Austria declared war on Serbia. The carnage of WWI begins.
POD- Is July 27, 1914 and the Kaiser has received the full text of the Austrian ultimatum and the Serbian reply one full day sooner and with a little help from his friends manages to keep a lid on the situation and WWI does not happen in this ATL.
Dancing back from the brink many take a deep breath, there was no WWI but it was close and there will be no general out break of hostilities until 1926.
So what does happen in this ATL?
First,one thing that didn’t happen was the death of some eight million men on the battlefields of Europe and the destruction of the old European order.
: With no trench warfare tanks are not developed. Armored cars though have become standard equipment of most European armies.
: Submarines are still thought of by most as mainly defensive weapons to guard coastlines.
: Aircraft, small arms, and artillery development by 1926 was similar to OTL 1918.
: Cavalry was still very much in vogue.
The early 1920s became a time of trouble and unraveling.
RUSSIA - From 1914 to 1926, by far the most important developments on the international scene took place in Russia. The Czar still rules, but in a very different Russia.
Uprisings had occurred in 1916 and again in 1918, causing much disruption, but they had been put down successfully.
In 1919 a whole new round of communist inspired insurrection began. It was clear that this latest outbreak of revolution and violence would not be put down so easily.
By mid 1920 the country was in chaos. Fearful of losing all control the Czar appealed directly to Kaiser Wilhelm, with whom he had been corresponding with for over two decades.
The Kaiser fearing what a collapsing Russia would mean dispatched German troops to Poland, the Baltic States, and into the Ukraine.
By the end of the year the Czar had fled to German controlled Poland. The Red and White factions were engaged in a vicious civil war. Much to the chagrin of the Kaiser the only thing holding the Whites together was a constantly increasing German presence. The Kaiser demanded concessions after the war and the Czar agreed.
As 1921 dawned the White Forces and the now large German army, had managed to force the Reds from European Russia. Still most of Siberia and southern Russia was now firmly in the hands of the Lenin and the Reds.
In the meantime an opportunistic Japan had taken advantage of the chaos and had taken all of Sakhalin and seized all the land east of the Amur River. By mid 1921 they had pushed north up the Pacific coast to Magadan and inland where they had taken Irkutsk, there Red resistance stiffened.
Revolution was in the air; during most of 1920 and 1921 Austria-Hungry was preoccupied with Czech and other minority demands for self-rule and general unrest all over the mish-mash of its Empire.
Finland had pushed all Russian forces out and declared its independence from Russia 8/21.
Over German and Russian objections the Ottomans had taken Russian Armenia and Romania had carved out a big hunk of Bessarabia.
In the December of 1921 a five-power peace conference was convened. Russia (Whites), the newly proclaimed Soviet Union (Reds), Germany, Ottoman Empire, Romania, and Japan all attended.
land east of the Lena River would also go to Japan.
Germany would take Poland and the Baltic States into the Empire.
Finland’s independence was recognized.
The Turks would keep Armenia and Romania Bessarabia, over Russian objection. Russia was too weak to stop it and nobody else cared.
Russia would keep every thing else of old European Russia west of the Urals and the Ural River.
Lenin and the Soviets would have every thing else in Siberia and southern Russia.
While all the time the Reds and Whites were fighting over the fate of Russia, strong nationalistic feelings were rising in the Ukraine. When it looked like civil war would once again breakout the Czar granted Ukraine an autonomous status in 1923.
By 1924 & 1925, though still weak and with German approval, Russia had recovered enough to take back Bessarabia and Armenia from the Romanians and Turks. This pushed Romania and the Ottoman Empire away from both Russia and Germany.
There would be great lasting bitterness between Russia and the Soviet Union of course.
By 1923 it was becoming clear that Austria/Hungary was a dysfunctional nation state. Various minority groups were clamoring for independence and several armed insurrections had been put down since 1920.
The conglomerate country was breaking up, but how would it do so?
Germany sensing an opportunity sets up back channel talks with Hungary and Italy. These three come to a secrete agreement on how to manage a breaking up of the A/H Empire in their favor.
Germany and Hungary will divide the bulk of the country in half, roughly along the line of the old Holy Roman Empire. Germany will get Bohemia and Moravia, Austria, and Slovenia. Those in Germany who had longed for a ‘Greater Germany’ since Bismarck’s days quite popularly received this expansion.
Italy will receive the Alto Adige, Fiume and Trieste. Trieste was to be considered an open port to Germany with no restriction on trade or traffic.
Hungary will get the eastern half of the Empire.
Within a few days Prague was chaotic. The insurrection had spread to Croatia in a week. Many parts of the multi-ethnic army were in mutiny.
In this increasingly turbulent April 1923, troops from Germany and Italy crossed over Austrian borders to ‘free’ and protect German and Italian minorities. There was little the disintegrating Austrian Army could do against this combined invading force.
The bulk, about 90%, of the Austrian Fleet would go to Germany.
take over of a sovereign nation. But there was little they could or would do about it.
Britain and France are appalled at the sudden aggrandizement of Germany! In roughly 1 & 1/2 years Germany had grown to encompass Russian Poland, the Baltic States, Bohemia, Moravia, Austria, and Slovenia.
Germany’s population has grown by 2/3 and for the most part these are very productive peoples. Its industrial might has increased by a whopping third almost over night! Its economy had already passed the Brits and was growing faster, now it’s been increased by about a third!
Germany’s navy, augmented by the acquisition of the Austrian fleet, has also grown by about 25% over night. This has greatly alarmed the British Admiralty.
with the ‘new Russia’, Italy, and Hungary. It also has managed very lucrative trade pacts with these countries. Germany now completely dominates central and eastern Europe.
though not yet a formal alliance.
There were of course problems absorbing the new citizens of Germany, many of who didn’t wish be one. Austrians & Czech nationalists caused some problems for Germany, but for the most part people were resigned to the change. While brooking no nonsense the German Govt. went out of its way to make its new citizens feel welcome and a booming economy erased many differences.
Hungary had problems with its minorities, which it handled rather roughly stamping out any insurrection viciously.
Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria had tried to acquire something for themselves when A/H broke up but came away with nothing and were not happy about it.
The situation in China this TL had preceded, up until 1919, much the same as in ours. However without WWI taking place the European Powers are much stronger and less preoccupied during China’s revolutionary time.
In 1919 spontaneous uprisings of students and factory workers proved to be the start of a real revolution. Sun Yat-sen had aligned his nationalist KMT Party with the Chinese Communist Party the CCP. The CCP was supported by the fledgling Soviet Union.
warlords and the powers that be.
Sun was killed in 1920. It fell to Chiang Kai-shek to lead the Northern Expedition of 1921, which aimed at wiping out the power of the warlords and the unification of the country.
Much of the action between the various Chinese factions took place inland away from the concessions granted the occupying European powers, which supplied arms and often supplied troops to bring down the rebellion. They wanted China divided and weak.
The alliance between KMT and the CCP was always shaky; they soon fell out and began fighting with each other. Chiang himself was killed in mid 1921.
Germany, France, and Britain had assisted in savagely repressing any rebellion in their areas and had strongly resented the Soviet assistance to the CCP.
By the end of 1922 the revolution had wore itself out. This would not be the China of OTL. Chiang and Mao were dead and the Europeans were still in control of much of the coastal areas of the country.
A conference was called in February 1923, to settle the ‘China Question’. Attending were Britain, France, Germany, and Japan.
Fearing being shut out of the China trade the USA insisted on being part of the conference.
While the Chinese rebellion was going in 1921 the Soviet Union had annexed much of Mongolia and Sinkiang. In order to settle once and for all the ‘China Question’, the Soviets were added to the table.
Compromises were reached and China was firmly carved up into areas of influence like a Christmas turkey.
Japan’s control of Manchuria was formally recognized, along with the province of Fukien in the south.
An unhappy ‘Johnny come lately’ USA received the Chekiang province.
Germany received the Shantung province and areas north to Japanese Manchuria. German China’s southern border was fixed along the Yellow and Wei Rivers. It extended west to Soviet controlled Sinkiang.
Britain’s portion of China stretched west along both sides of the Yangtze River from Shanghai all the way to Tibet, which also fell under British control.
The Soviets control of Mongolia and Sinkiang was recognized.
The French remained in control of south China and the Pearl River.
Perhaps the Powers would find it easier to carve up China on the map, than it would be to keep it pacified?
Although there were some rivalries and strains in the Anglo-German economic relationship, there was overall a high degree of complementary and mutual benefit as Britain and Germany gained greatly from trade and financial ties. Britain was a close second to the United States as Germany's most important bilateral trade partner by 1914.
There was however one big bone sticking in the Kaiser’s craw.
Twice, once in 1898 and again in 1913, tentative agreement had been reached between Britain and Germany on the diving up the Portuguese colonies. Both times the agreements had come to naught.
The countries had been able to reach an agreement August 1913, which gave Germany a larger share of the Portuguese colonies. It was never formally signed, however, for the Foreign Office insisted on publication of the agreement, a condition Germany refused to accept.
Talks broke down when Britain made the agreement public. The Kaiser considered this act a betrayal of confidence. Thus began a souring of the relationship between Britain and Germany.
The talks between the two concerning the Portuguese colonies were to resume in 1914 but the Archduke’s assassination and subsequent political turmoil caused a postponement proposed by Britain. When Britain seemed to be dragging its feet in resuming talks the Kaiser was incensed and broke off trying.
But the Kaiser wanted those colonies. The only thing that stood in his way was the Royal Navy. This fact kicked off a whole new round of naval rivalry and expansion, by not just Germany and Britain, but also the rest of the world in concern at being left too far behind.
By 1926 Germany’s Navy was considered to be almost the equal of Britain’s. The Royal Navy still had the advantage in ships, experience, and tonnage; but that advantage had dropped sharply with Germany’s acquisition of the Austrian Fleet in 1923. Also Germany’s Fleet had more ships of newer and deadlier design than did Britain’s. Britain also had more commitments around the world to service than Germany, making the Royal Navy stretched thin by comparison.
In 1926 the lead up to War begins… May 1stin one fell swoop the German Navy and Marines seize all the Portuguese colonies around the world.
Compared to the force that the Germans could bring to bear the colonies were lightly defended and they took them all with ease.
Portuguese colonies taken by Germany included the following:
: The Azores
: The Madeira Islands
: Portuguese Guinea
This caused an explosion of shock and protest around the globe.
Portugal seethed but refrained from making a futile and possibly suicidal solo declaration of war against Germany, until it could find out if it could find any allies. It did however break off diplomatic relations with the Germans.
France was livid but impotent without British aid.
The British Government was particularly incensed, but with no formal alliance in place at that time with Portugal, it new that the British public would not support a war with Germany over Portuguese colonial possessions.
The seizing of the Portuguese colonies pushed Britain and France that much closer to some sort of formal alliance.
Britain and France called for an immediate emergency conference with Germany to discuss the seizure of the Portuguese colonies. The conference was to take place in London, on May 8th. Germany agreed to attend; and said it would send its Foreign Secretary.
The talks were going nowhere as Germany categorically refused to relinquish any control of the former Portuguese property.
What really ignited the situation was correspondence, intercepted on May 10th by a French spy from the German Foreign Secretary Author Zimmerman, sent to Kaiser Wilhelm. The document was made public the next day and the shit really hit the fan.
Outlined in the document were Zimmerman’s suggestions on future colonial snatches to be made by Germany. He advocated picking off the possessions of the smaller European countries first, starting with the Belgium Congo. Next he had in mind the Dutch East Indies. The Italian colonies were next, to be followed by the whole of the French Colonial Empire. Then it was on to Japan’s and Britain’s Empires and for desert he suggested the American Philippines.
It was never determined weather this loony strategy had ever been discussed with the Kaiser before the correspondence was intercepted. But with this one remarkable document Zimmerman had single handedly alienated every other major world power to Germany.
Zimmerman was immediately recalled as the talks broke up in an uproar.
France and Britain commenced immediate discussion on a formal military alliance. Ten days later May 20th a mutual defense treaty was signed requiring each to give immediate and full aid in the case of an attack on the other. The pact was called The Alliance.
The Alliance demanded a formal apology from Germany on May 23rd and a return of the Portuguese Colonies to Portugal.
This demand was intended to be deliberately provocative. Although neither ally was prepared for war; the one thing that the two allies definitely agreed on was that if war was coming with Germany, as long as they were given sufficient time to mobilize, sooner was better than later. The growth in German might over the last four decades had been more than impressive. Given time to integrate the additions of the last two years it might well prove to be a power that even Britain and France working in concert could not best.
The Alliance immediately began a search for more allies and opened talks with Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, and the USA. A fearful Netherlands and Belgium joined the Alliance one week later on May 30th.
Japan and Italy declined to join on June 5th. Both preferred to keep their options open, although they did express solidarity with France and Britain over the issues. They declined to join the Alliance at this time.
The USA, while expressing outrage at the German actions, considered this basically a European problem, requiring a European solution. Although the tenor of its reply indicated a future door might be left open to cooperating with the Alliance. Offering to act as an honest broker between The Alliance and Germany it also calls for an international summit in Washington in early July, in the hopes that a way to avoid a general war can be found. The parties involved are all planning to send a delegation to the American Conference
As for a now, very lonely Germany had few friends left. Russia and Hungary both had formal defense pacts in place with Germany, but the key word here was defense. Italy had a looser defense alliance with Germany, which obligated them to come only to an attacked Germany’s aid. With Germany perceived as the aggressor by all, could it count on any aid from anyone?
Germany’s military, as it had already partially been mobilized prior to starting this whole mess, is at a much higher state of readiness than that of the Alliance. It is also more experienced than the Alliance armies having recently fought in the Russian civil war.
Germany’s new generation of armored cars (the Mark III) is faster than any other armored car in existence and it has a greatly improved off road capability, sporting a 20mm gun and thicker armor, it is just starting to arrive in numbers to the front line units. The older model German armored cars, armed first with light then heavy machine guns, had proved very effective in the Russian campaigns.
An eager proponent of the use of the armored car in mass had just recently offered a paper concerning the use of the armored car to afford break troughs, in depth, in enemy positions. The paper had been proffered by a young Col. by the name of Hans Guderian. It has not been well received by the more conservative elements in the officer corps, especially the cavalry.
In Russia the Germans had put the latest aircraft to good use spotting, strafing, and bombing the Reds. They had also used planes capable of landing in rough terrain to insert small commando units behind enemy lines; these elite units had caused significant disruption to the Reds. With no aircraft of their own the Reds were helpless and terrified by the German planes.
The Kaiser and the German General Staff have come to an agreement on strategy. If war cannot be avoided and if they knock France out of the war, it will force Britain to bow to the German, as yet to be determined, demands.
A plan to invade the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, very similar to the OTL Manstein plan of 1940, is hastily thrown together in the first week of June by the General Staff. Despite their through professionalism no one on the General Staff had quite contemplated fighting this set of enemies in their war planning.
Complete mobilization was already under way and preparation for the invasion of France and the Low Countries was picking up speed. The German Generals planned to be ready and in position by June 20th.
The Alliance powers, along with several neutrals, scramble to mobilize.
The Alliance allies were desperately trying to form some coherent unified command structure.
The first of the BEF arrived in Belgium on June 7th. Their intent was to shore up the Belgium and Dutch resistance in the case of invasion by Germany. The basic idea was that the French could hold their own in defense on their border with Germany, if they were not flanked from the north.
On June 13th 1926 an incident occurs that may serve to light off the whole powder keg.
To be continued…
End Part 1