German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
User avatar
JAG13
Member
Posts: 689
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 01:50

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by JAG13 » 23 Sep 2019 21:30

glenn239 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 17:25
JAG13 wrote:
22 Sep 2019 19:26
Grey was getting ready to dump the French because he thought war a hard sell, without Belgium this path he ACTUALLY started to take is what he had, stand back and watch the French suicide against Metz.
Grey stated in his memoires that under no circumstances would he have remained in cabinet had Britain remained neutral. Therefore, Grey was not getting ready to dump the French, he was getting ready for a major showdown to decide policy, in which if he failed, he and Asquith would resign from the Liberals and presumably cross the floor to the Conservatives, with maybe about half the Liberal party.
Had the cabinet forced him to DECLARE neutrality prior to be beginning of the war, IIRC.

And post facto memories are a tricky thing...

"(35370) No. 426.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Bertie.
Foreign Office, August 1, 1914.
Tel (No. 299.)
D. 8:20 P.M.

After the Cabinet to-day, I told M. Cambon that the present position differed entirely from that created by the Morocco incidents. In the latter, Germany made upon France demands that France could not grant, and in connection with which we had undertaken special obligations towards France. In these, public opinion would have justified the British Government in supporting France to the utmost of their ability. Now, the position was that Germany would agree not to attack France if France remained neutral in the event of war between Russia and Germany. If France could not take advantage of this position it was because she was bound by an alliance to which we were not parties, and of which we did not know the terms. This did not mean that under no circumstances would we assist France, but it did mean that France must take her own decision at this moment without reckoning on an assistance that we were not now in a position to promise.

M. Cambon said that he could not transmit this reply to his Government, and he asked me to authorise him to say that the British Cabinet had not yet taken any decision.

I said that we had come to a decision: that we could not propose to Parliament at this moment to send an expeditionary military force to the continent. Such a step had always been regarded here as very dangerous and doubtful. It was one that we could not propose, and Parliament would not authorise unless our interests and obligations were deeply and desperately involved.

M. Cambon said that the French coasts were undefended. The German fleet might come through the Straits any day and attack them.

I said that that might alter public feeling here, and so might a violation of the neutrality of Belgium. He could tell his Government that we were already considering the Belgian point, and that I would ask the Cabinet to consider the point about the French coasts. He could say that the Cabinet had not yet taken any decision on these points."


He talks about a change of public feeling based on two situations, a CHANGE OF FEELING, indicating that there was no inclination of the public for war, the politicians might want it, but they cant simply do it without taking the people into consideration, even the Germans had to fake a French attack and they were already at war...

Here, the French are going to war on their own, no chance of Belgium, maybe a naval attack but the Germans would be weary of the RN given the UK's attitude of the time so... tough.

User avatar
JAG13
Member
Posts: 689
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 01:50

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by JAG13 » 23 Sep 2019 21:51

Just to clarify, North Sea:

MN + RN on tow = Obvious provocation

MN offering itself for sacrifice + falling back on the massed RN = Obvious trap

No purchase.

User avatar
Terry Duncan
Forum Staff
Posts: 5770
Joined: 13 Jun 2008 22:54
Location: Kent

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Terry Duncan » 23 Sep 2019 22:08

JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:30
even the Germans had to fake a French attack and they were already at war...

Here, the French are going to war on their own, no chance of Belgium, maybe a naval attack but the Germans would be weary of the RN given the UK's attitude of the time so... tough.
Apparently only the Germans would be clever enough to invent an incident to use to declare war, the RN would never be able to do such a thing (a ship at sea being a much more public place than a railway station in a major city!!!) and the French would never use the pre-war German border patrols entering France and killing a French soldier as a pretext, yet alone invent anything more serious!
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:30
This did not mean that under no circumstances would we assist France, but it did mean that France must take her own decision at this moment without reckoning on an assistance that we were not now in a position to promise.
So this states that there are circumstances where Britain will aid France, irrespective of Belgium which forms its own part of the discussion of the situation. All you are doing here is showing that Grey was playing a waiting game, not that Britain would not aid France. As a hint, when Glenn and I both agree on the same interpretation of the evidence, it is a good indication that when you disagree you may well be wrong.
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:19
No, the defeated tend to be resentful as history teaches us, they wont be siding with the Germans anytime soon... not after the Russians get Brest-Litovsked and the French stripped of colonies and crushed under reparations.
And you imagine the British were so stupid that this very consideration never occurred to them, yet alone was one of the reasons the Triple Entente came into being in the first place? In an earlier crisis Britain was considering that Germany even attempting to force a concession from France that would see them acquire a naval base on the NW coast of Africa would be reason enough for war! You think annexing the French colonies as a peace settlement would even vaguely be posssible but imagine Britain incapable of drawing such obvious conclusions? The Entente worked because each partner needed the other, none were about to see other partners picked off a leisure.

User avatar
Terry Duncan
Forum Staff
Posts: 5770
Joined: 13 Jun 2008 22:54
Location: Kent

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Terry Duncan » 23 Sep 2019 22:14

JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:51
Just to clarify, North Sea:

MN + RN on tow = Obvious provocation

MN offering itself for sacrifice + falling back on the massed RN = Obvious trap

No purchase.
A single scouting light cruiser coming back to port having encountered a German counterpart and claiming to have come under fire is all that is needed, the fleet is far too important to be lured out over a possible submarine ambush. Somehow this is reminding me of an almost identical 'incident' that never took place but was used to justify committment to war, and I doubt the Gulf of Tonkin is something you have never heard of, so why do you imagine such an invent is impossible in 1914?

The Ibis
Member
Posts: 365
Joined: 27 Dec 2015 01:06
Location: The interwebs

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by The Ibis » 23 Sep 2019 22:22

Terry Duncan wrote:
23 Sep 2019 22:08
As a hint, when Glenn and I both agree on the same interpretation of the evidence, it is a good indication that when you disagree you may well be wrong.
hmmmmm…...

Image
"The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided." - Casey Stengel

User avatar
JAG13
Member
Posts: 689
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 01:50

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by JAG13 » 24 Sep 2019 02:49

Terry Duncan wrote:
23 Sep 2019 22:14
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:51
Just to clarify, North Sea:

MN + RN on tow = Obvious provocation

MN offering itself for sacrifice + falling back on the massed RN = Obvious trap

No purchase.
A single scouting light cruiser coming back to port having encountered a German counterpart and claiming to have come under fire is all that is needed, the fleet is far too important to be lured out over a possible submarine ambush. Somehow this is reminding me of an almost identical 'incident' that never took place but was used to justify committment to war, and I doubt the Gulf of Tonkin is something you have never heard of, so why do you imagine such an invent is impossible in 1914?
Yeah, and I am pretty sure you are aware of the names Kerny, Greer, Panay, Reuben James...

People do tend to ask "what the hell was our ship doing in a war zone?" before going to war over a minor incident.

User avatar
JAG13
Member
Posts: 689
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 01:50

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by JAG13 » 24 Sep 2019 02:59

Terry Duncan wrote:
23 Sep 2019 22:08
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:30
even the Germans had to fake a French attack and they were already at war...

Here, the French are going to war on their own, no chance of Belgium, maybe a naval attack but the Germans would be weary of the RN given the UK's attitude of the time so... tough.
Apparently only the Germans would be clever enough to invent an incident to use to declare war, the RN would never be able to do such a thing (a ship at sea being a much more public place than a railway station in a major city!!!) and the French would never use the pre-war German border patrols entering France and killing a French soldier as a pretext, yet alone invent anything more serious!
The Germans were already at war and focused on that, and everyone expected France to go in due to their alliance commitments, this was a simple PR stunt, on the UK you needed to actually move public opinion.
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:30
This did not mean that under no circumstances would we assist France, but it did mean that France must take her own decision at this moment without reckoning on an assistance that we were not now in a position to promise.
So this states that there are circumstances where Britain will aid France, irrespective of Belgium which forms its own part of the discussion of the situation. All you are doing here is showing that Grey was playing a waiting game, not that Britain would not aid France. As a hint, when Glenn and I both agree on the same interpretation of the evidence, it is a good indication that when you disagree you may well be wrong.
No, this is a "not now, call me later", the most vacuous of excuses and the French knew it which is why Cambon was so distraught, and Grey confirmed his intention to Nicholson, "they have nothing in writing"... They were not allies and could not be expected to enter without a compelling reason to sell to the public.
JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:19
No, the defeated tend to be resentful as history teaches us, they wont be siding with the Germans anytime soon... not after the Russians get Brest-Litovsked and the French stripped of colonies and crushed under reparations.
And you imagine the British were so stupid that this very consideration never occurred to them, yet alone was one of the reasons the Triple Entente came into being in the first place? In an earlier crisis Britain was considering that Germany even attempting to force a concession from France that would see them acquire a naval base on the NW coast of Africa would be reason enough for war! You think annexing the French colonies as a peace settlement would even vaguely be posssible but imagine Britain incapable of drawing such obvious conclusions? The Entente worked because each partner needed the other, none were about to see other partners picked off a leisure.
Yeah, people love to talk war during peace, when actual war is on the table... and those opinions become kind of moot when the UK was willing to let the Germans have the Portuguese colonies which would mean German bases on the coast of Africa.

The entente worked because it was appeasement, the UK had no way to fight the Franco-Russian alliance, so it made a deal... and worked so well Grey was already thinking of quitting because Russia was not keeping its end of the bargain.

User avatar
Takao
Member
Posts: 2990
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 19:27
Location: Reading, Pa

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Takao » 24 Sep 2019 09:59

glenn239 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 17:20
Takao wrote:
22 Sep 2019 01:37

The British pursuit of Goeben and Breslau indicate otherwise.

British admirals tend to follow orders from those on high.
The scenario in question is the German pursuit of a French squadron across the North Sea in a running fight. As the British approach, the two engaged fleets (French, German) are already exchanging heavy fire. It would be a miracle if the all the Germans didn't shoot at the British in confusion.
You are aware that the French Fleet was mostly in the Med...And that there were only 7 French cruisers on the Atlantic coast.

Or is this another POD needed to make this fantasy happen, the shredding of the previously agreed upon British-French naval agreements.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 7387
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Sep 2019 12:01

Takao wrote:
24 Sep 2019 09:59
glenn239 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 17:20
Takao wrote:
22 Sep 2019 01:37

The British pursuit of Goeben and Breslau indicate otherwise.

British admirals tend to follow orders from those on high.
The scenario in question is the German pursuit of a French squadron across the North Sea in a running fight. As the British approach, the two engaged fleets (French, German) are already exchanging heavy fire. It would be a miracle if the all the Germans didn't shoot at the British in confusion.
You are aware that the French Fleet was mostly in the Med...And that there were only 7 French cruisers on the Atlantic coast.

Or is this another POD needed to make this fantasy happen, the shredding of the previously agreed upon British-French naval agreements.
Nah, weaving complex operations and strategy without reference or research to actual political & military conditions is easier.

User avatar
Terry Duncan
Forum Staff
Posts: 5770
Joined: 13 Jun 2008 22:54
Location: Kent

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Terry Duncan » 24 Sep 2019 12:36

JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:49
Yeah, and I am pretty sure you are aware of the names Kerny, Greer, Panay, Reuben James...
I seem to recall that the US government at the time was trying to maintain the line they were not going to get involved in a war rather than looking to support an alliance partner?
JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:49
People do tend to ask "what the hell was our ship doing in a war zone?" before going to war over a minor incident.
As The Ibis pointed out, nobody cared about that when the Maine exploded, nor did people care too much at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin. Even in 1940/41 the majority cared that the Germans attacked US ships and not that the US ships were there in the first place.

User avatar
Terry Duncan
Forum Staff
Posts: 5770
Joined: 13 Jun 2008 22:54
Location: Kent

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Terry Duncan » 24 Sep 2019 13:08

JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:59
The Germans were already at war and focused on that, and everyone expected France to go in due to their alliance commitments, this was a simple PR stunt, on the UK you needed to actually move public opinion.
Yeah, just like public opinion in France and Germany mattered. It was government unity that mattered in Britain, the people would follow in a war against Germany as Germany had made itself the clear enemy over the previous decade. It might not be as unanimous as with an invasion of Belgium, but it would be a majority, rather like the 'We Want Eight And We Wont Wait' campaign, it was supported by the majority because it was designed to act against the percieved enemy.
JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:59
No, this is a "not now, call me later", the most vacuous of excuses and the French knew it which is why Cambon was so distraught, and Grey confirmed his intention to Nicholson, "they have nothing in writing"... They were not allies and could not be expected to enter without a compelling reason to sell to the public.

Yes, nothing in writing that could force Britain to act so they had to make their decision based on their own interests. However, as you wish to quote the diplomatic documents, would you like to remind people what Grey was telling Lichnowsky all through the Crisis? I seem to recall it was very different to what he was saying to Cambon, that is correct isnt it?
JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:59
Yeah, people love to talk war during peace, when actual war is on the table... and those opinions become kind of moot when the UK was willing to let the Germans have the Portuguese colonies which would mean German bases on the coast of Africa.
The Portuguese colonies were not in NW Africa and had no real naval base or major harbour. The UK was also willing to allow Parsons to sell its turbines to Germany, but that didnt mean they were not willing to fight Germany if a war started.
JAG13 wrote:
24 Sep 2019 02:59
The entente worked because it was appeasement, the UK had no way to fight the Franco-Russian alliance, so it made a deal... and worked so well Grey was already thinking of quitting because Russia was not keeping its end of the bargain.
The Entente worked by your own admission, so when a war began no partner was going to desert the alliance as that would mean it was friendless no matter who won the war. Grey was 'thinking of quitting' only to the extent of moving away from Russia due to the Russian demands in the recent naval talks, and Sazonov believed he had gone too far and was planning to retract many of his demands. However, as Grey told Lichnowsky, the more serious the crisis became, the closer he would stick to the Entente line. I am still waiting for you to show where Grey deviated from this policy?

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5062
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by glenn239 » 24 Sep 2019 18:00

JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:19
No, but as someone else pointed out, RN admirals were taught to follow orders, wont do it without them.
In fact, I think we can safely conclude that the German fleet would have no rational option but to decline to engage the French fleet under any circumstances where the Grand Fleet might be nearby. Functionally, this would mean that the French will control the North Sea. We also haven't dealt with the cases where German U-boats sink British warships by accident, thinking them French.
Swallow? Or simply align with the one that DID HONOR the treaty that protected them? There is a huge difference...
Once France invades Belgium the German army has free reign to occupy Belgium in order to defeat France. All British requests to evacuate the territory would be stonewalled with the need to win the war first. But, once the war was won, the Germans are still in Belgium and can stonewall the British with the need to make peace, and enforce peace, with France. Since France invaded Belgium and the British did not DOW France, the treaty of 1839 was void and all the Benelux countries, (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) enter the Central Powers alliance.
And even so, how does that affect the UK in the 20th century?
Ferguson makes the argument that Britain would have been better off allying with Germany and letting things go the way you picture them. That may be so, but that wasn't the way the British were seeing things at the time.
No, the defeated tend to be resentful as history teaches us, they wont be siding with the Germans anytime soon... not after the Russians get Brest-Litovsked and the French stripped of colonies and crushed under reparations.
If the French are betrayed by the British, then to suppose, as you do, that they continue to be anti-German, we must credit the French with having the intelligence to only do so in the circumstance where such a policy might result in victory. After two beatings, (1871, 1914), what evidence would France have that they were due for a win? About the only one I can think of would be an alliance with the United States?
Temporarily, until a definite peace treaty was signed, and just because the guy on the other side of the channel was still at war...
A temporary measure according to whom? The French are crushed. They have no say on whether the German navy leases French bases for the next 1 or 100 years. The British shall do what? Stamp their feet? Hold their breath? Scream blue bloody murder? Send their 6 divisions to France to fight 200 German divisions? No JAG, the British have remained neutral and the Germans now have the French ports to do as they wish for as long as they wish. In fact, the terms of the treaty might require the French navy to work in alliance with the Germans.
And again, Grey was jettisoning the French on Aug 1st, it was their war, there was no alliance... in this case is worse, the French would have to declare war on Germany instead of being the attacked as IRL, so good luck selling a Russian war to the UK public...
And again, Grey stated he would have gone had Britain remained neutral. He was not jettisoning the French on 1 August. He was stalling until events on the continent made his move to enter the war easier.
Belgium WAS an excuse, but it was used because it was NEEDED, here the French are not even being attacked, they are embarking willingly and on their own into a war over Serbia.
The independence of Belgium was not an "excuse", it was a core British national interest and policy. WRT France and Germany, it mattered not which invaded Belgium - Britain must go to war with Germany in either case or risk seeing Belgium swallowed by the victor, (ie, Germany) after the war.

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5062
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by glenn239 » 24 Sep 2019 18:07

JAG13 wrote:
23 Sep 2019 21:30
And post facto memories are a tricky thing...
You know Grey better than Grey knew himself?

Underlined.

(35001) No. 286.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.
(No. 253.)
Foreign Office, July 29, 1914.
Sir.
After speaking to the German Ambassador this afternoon about the European situation, I said that I wished to say to him, in a quite private and friendly way, something that was on my mind. The situation was very grave. While it was restricted to the issues at present actually involved we had no thought of interfering in it. But if Germany became involved in it, and then France, the issue might be so great that it would involve all European interests, and I did not wish him to be misled by the friendly tone of our conversation which I hoped would continue into thinking that we should stand aside.
He said that he quite understood this, but he asked whether I meant that we should, under certain circumstances, intervene?
I replied that I did not wish to say that, or to use anything that was like a threat or an attempt to apply pressure by saying that if things became worse, we should intervene. There would be no question of our intervening if Germany was not involved, or even if France was not involved. But we knew very well that if the issue did become such that we thought British interests required us to intervene, we must intervene at once, and the decision would have to be very rapid, just as the decisions of other Powers had to be. I hoped that the friendly tone of our conversations would continue as at present and that I should be able to keep as closely in touch with the German Government in working for peace. But if we failed in our efforts to keep the peace, and if the issue spread so that it involved practically every European interest, I did not wish to be open to any reproach from him that the friendly tone of all our conversations had misled him or his Government into supposing that we should not take action, and to the reproach that, if they had not been so misled, the course of things might have been different.
The German Ambassador took no exception to what I had said; indeed, he told me that it accorded with what he had already given in Berlin as his view of the situation. (1)
I am, &c.
E. GREY.
Published in BB No. 89.
(There is a note on the file copy "Not sent -War.")

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5062
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by glenn239 » 24 Sep 2019 18:15

Terry Duncan wrote:
23 Sep 2019 22:08
Apparently only the Germans would be clever enough to invent an incident to use to declare war, the RN would never be able to do such a thing (a ship at sea being a much more public place than a railway station in a major city!!!) and the French would never use the pre-war German border patrols entering France and killing a French soldier as a pretext, yet alone invent anything more serious!
JAG also seems to assume perfect visibility in the North Sea. Never things like night, or rainy and foggy weather where a British squadron emerges during a Franco-German battle at close range and the Germans open fire, thinking them French.

So this states that there are circumstances where Britain will aid France, irrespective of Belgium which forms its own part of the discussion of the situation. All you are doing here is showing that Grey was playing a waiting game, not that Britain would not aid France. As a hint, when Glenn and I both agree on the same interpretation of the evidence, it is a good indication that when you disagree you may well be wrong.
Agreed. I can see Grey playing games for several weeks to get Britain into the war, but not much in the way of months. In the meantime, the PM could make the necessary preparations such as mobilizing the British army, getting the Royal Navy to its battle posts, and mobilizing transport of the BEF to France.
And you imagine the British were so stupid that this very consideration never occurred to them, yet alone was one of the reasons the Triple Entente came into being in the first place? In an earlier crisis Britain was considering that Germany even attempting to force a concession from France that would see them acquire a naval base on the NW coast of Africa would be reason enough for war! You think annexing the French colonies as a peace settlement would even vaguely be posssible but imagine Britain incapable of drawing such obvious conclusions? The Entente worked because each partner needed the other, none were about to see other partners picked off a leisure.
It's all driven, IMO, by a wishful thinking that the British and Germans were really allies that chose the wrong, tragic, path. But, for the JAG13's scenario to have come off it had to be the case that something fundamental would break the log jam that was leading towards collision. The only thing that comes to mind is the United States emerging on the world stage and imposing a new order before the old world could tear itself apart.

User avatar
Takao
Member
Posts: 2990
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 19:27
Location: Reading, Pa

Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Takao » 25 Sep 2019 01:17

Terry Duncan wrote:
24 Sep 2019 12:36
I seem to recall that the US government at the time was trying to maintain the line they were not going to get involved in a war rather than looking to support an alliance partner?
I don't recall England and France being Allies at the time...In fact, the British government went out of it's way to avoid putting anything in writing.

Terry Duncan wrote:
24 Sep 2019 12:36
As The Ibis pointed out, nobody cared about that when the Maine exploded, nor did people care too much at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin. Even in 1940/41 the majority cared that the Germans attacked US ships and not that the US ships were there in the first place.
People are fickle...They didn't care about the USS Liberty - as we did not go to war with Israel. And they did not care about the USS Pueblo - as we did not go to war with North Korea.

Just like everyone knows about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, but no one has heard of the SS Eastland.

Return to “What if”