What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

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nuyt
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What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 13 Feb 2021 21:27

The uprisings in the southern parts of the (united) Kingdom of the Netherlands/Royaume de Belgique in 1830 led to the breakaway of the southern provinces under the name Belgium. But things could have easily been different. What if this never happened and the Netherlands would have remained united from that year on? What would have been the effect on Germany and world politics?

There were plenty of opportunities for the country to remain united. The biggest was in 1830, when the Dutch Army smashed the separatists, but were forced to withdraw faced with the threat of war with France, one of the protectors of the new state. If one of the other protectors, Prussia, had said no/non/nein/nee to the French and had assisted with reestablishing law and order, the secession would have been over right then (Prussia in OTL had troubles if its own in the east and was distracted). There was also still substantial support in the south for keeping things as they were, not only from the side of the nobility and other Orangists. There were plenty of economic and business opportunities and for instance Flemish textiles had been flowing north and to the colonies. After this moment in 1830 there were others, like Orangist coups in the south that could not be supported by the Dutch (until 1841), at least that's what they thought. In retrospect, Talleyrand would have accepted such a move in 1831, as stated by himself.

OK, the French back down, things calm down in 1830 and business booms on, industrialization picks up and both parts of the country flourish. King William rides high in the polls again...

The Kingdom owes its fate to Prussia and the Netherlands/Belgique joins the Zollverein in the 1830s, that is now no longer a strictly German affair. Later more economic integration is achieved and Germans get access also to the Dutch colonies.

All is roses until the French start seeking revenge and honor and that sort of thing by 1870. The Dutch now must join the Germans in their war with France and as they are on the winning side, they get part of the spoils. The borders shifts south in 1871 and the Kingdom now includes former French Flanders, a strip of Flemish speakers from Dunkirk to Lille/Rijssel. The Walloons also get some lost kinsmen and territory and border corrections take place around Givet and along the Hainaut border.

The German/Dutch economic union marches on and its back to business in Europe and the colonies. The Dutch focus on the Indies, but also become heavily involved in the Boer republics, while Germany creates its own colonies in Africa and Asia as in OTL.

By 1900 things start to heat up again. The Brits are after the Boer gold, the French seek revenge again. How will this play out toward a possible WW1 and beyond?
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Futurist
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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Futurist » 13 Feb 2021 22:21

If there's still a World War I similar to that in real life (uncertain, due to the butterfly effect), does this Greater Netherlands actually allow German troops to pass through its territory at the start of the war so that Germany can invade France while bypassing the French border forts?

nuyt
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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 14 Feb 2021 11:15

Well, yes in the above scenario the united Kingdom is allied to Prussia and later German Empire and it has to fear a French revenge. So joint military planning between Germany and the united Netherlands will probably see German troops stationed in the southern NL in case of a French threat. You might even consider a preemptive attack by the joint forces towards Paris, whenever a threat appears to be rising.

Another, more boring, scenario starts off after 1830 and sees the King, though very grateful to Prussia and maintaining personal warm relations, steering the country towards a more neutral position and cultivating good relations with Britain, Prussia (later Germany) and France:
- Not joining the Zollverein, but signing an extensive trade agreement, like in OTL.
- And staying neutral in 1870 and upwards from that year.
- While it sympathizes with the Boers, this remains without any military support.

In that case a looming WW1 will be interesting: if the united Netherlands, now double in size, population, economy and twice as strong militarily (though still by far no great power) remains neutral, will Germany attack France through the NL south, along with the need to occupy the whole country in order to eliminate any threats?

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Feb 2021 20:51

I've occasionally wanted to test the German attack of 1914 in the context of a consolidated Netherlands state. Have tried extending a stronger right wing through Holland & found it no advantage. In the Greater Netherlands scenario I imagine it depends on how strong the Orange army is. The 2-3 Corps of Belgian reservists of 1914 were not much hindrance. Adding in another couple of Corps of Dutch reservists and landswehr does not seem a help. The Belgians in 1914 had a plan on the table for expanding the army to 16-18 divisions or 8-9 Corps. That does, on the game board, make a difference.

nuyt
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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 14 Feb 2021 21:17

depending on the scenarios:

1 The "United NL are allied with Germany" scenario. In this scenario the Dutch are organized and trained and maybe equipped like the German Army. There is no need to face an enemy to the East, so all there is to do is position a mobilized field Army of 10-12 divisions to the southwest.
Further troops man the fortresses of Namur, Antwerp, around Brussels and further south defenses around Tournai, Mons and Ostend. In this scenario the Dutch have a standing regular force of two or three divisions always on standby to guard against the French, so not just reservists. They can also call up a crack colonial division, battlehardened from the never easy expansion campaigns in the Indies. As I sketched out above, the Dutch border in this scenario has moved south after the 1870 war and the fortresses of Dunkirk, Lille and Maubeuge now are Dutch and add a bit of depth to the southward defense. I'd say the Fortress troops are good for another 10 divisions, which gives a total of 500-600.000 troops facing France upon mobilization, of which roughly 100.000 are regulars (standing divisions, colonials and cadres of the reserve formations).

2. In the Neutral united Netherlands scenario the territory is the same as present day Benelux. Troops have to face all directions as in OTL to maintain strict neutrality, with some divisions on the coast, some facing south and some facing east, fortresses and defense lines all over have to be manned. The Dutch are able to mobilize close to a million reservists, while only about 30.000 are professional cadres, plus some Gendarmerie, marines and the colonial Fuseliers. Defense is impossible without making hard choices.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Futurist » 02 May 2021 01:25

nuyt wrote:
14 Feb 2021 11:15
Well, yes in the above scenario the united Kingdom is allied to Prussia and later German Empire and it has to fear a French revenge. So joint military planning between Germany and the united Netherlands will probably see German troops stationed in the southern NL in case of a French threat. You might even consider a preemptive attack by the joint forces towards Paris, whenever a threat appears to be rising.
If this happens, and the Germans-Dutch lose the war, except France to strip the Netherlands of its French-majority territories--so, all of Walloonia and possibly Brussels as well.
Another, more boring, scenario starts off after 1830 and sees the King, though very grateful to Prussia and maintaining personal warm relations, steering the country towards a more neutral position and cultivating good relations with Britain, Prussia (later Germany) and France:
- Not joining the Zollverein, but signing an extensive trade agreement, like in OTL.
- And staying neutral in 1870 and upwards from that year.
- While it sympathizes with the Boers, this remains without any military support.

In that case a looming WW1 will be interesting: if the united Netherlands, now double in size, population, economy and twice as strong militarily (though still by far no great power) remains neutral, will Germany attack France through the NL south, along with the need to occupy the whole country in order to eliminate any threats?
Yes, I suspect that Germany will invade the Netherlands in this scenario in order to bypass France's border fortifications near the German border. Germany did feel like it needed to quickly knock France out, after all.
Last edited by Futurist on 02 May 2021 01:27, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Futurist » 02 May 2021 01:27

Also, one more thing--if the Netherlands is hostile towards France from the start, then France likely won't get caught with its pants down when it's attacked by German-Dutch troops from its northeast. And France's pre-war strategy might be different--in order words, France might very well avoid focusing so much on Alsace-Lorraine and recapturing it at the start of the war.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 03 May 2021 16:17

Futurist wrote:
02 May 2021 01:27
Also, one more thing--if the Netherlands is hostile towards France from the start, then France likely won't get caught with its pants down when it's attacked by German-Dutch troops from its northeast. And France's pre-war strategy might be different--in order words, France might very well avoid focusing so much on Alsace-Lorraine and recapturing it at the start of the war.
Yes but both sides will face a frontier and potential front line that is more than twice as long as in OTL. That means a thinner blue line on the French side, giving more opportunities for a concentrated attack and breakthrough by the Dutch/Germans!

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 03 May 2021 16:20

Futurist wrote:
02 May 2021 01:25


If this happens, and the Germans-Dutch lose the war, except France to strip the Netherlands of its French-majority territories--so, all of Walloonia and possibly Brussels as well.
Yes, indeed. And the smaller united Netherlands will be thrown even further into the arms of Germany, because they will geographically depend on it more than in other scenarios.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 May 2021 19:03

That assumes political blundering does not push them into neutrality or worse. The early 20th Century Kaiser & foreign office were not exactly the best players at this game. Post 1914 they managed to bungle a no brainer like US neutrality into ultimate defeat. As with Hitler we cant automatically assume logical 'best interest' outcomes.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by Futurist » 03 May 2021 20:00

nuyt wrote:
03 May 2021 16:17
Futurist wrote:
02 May 2021 01:27
Also, one more thing--if the Netherlands is hostile towards France from the start, then France likely won't get caught with its pants down when it's attacked by German-Dutch troops from its northeast. And France's pre-war strategy might be different--in order words, France might very well avoid focusing so much on Alsace-Lorraine and recapturing it at the start of the war.
Yes but both sides will face a frontier and potential front line that is more than twice as long as in OTL. That means a thinner blue line on the French side, giving more opportunities for a concentrated attack and breakthrough by the Dutch/Germans!
Honestly, France might extend its border fort system from Lorraine all of the way up to the North Sea in this scenario.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 04 May 2021 10:30

Yes, at considerable cost and possibly less mighty.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by OldBill » 04 May 2021 16:50

Having Belgium stay as part of the Netherlands will, or should, add some income to the country. Considering that the Netherlands historically had a decently sized navy, I wonder how much larger it would be in this scenario, and how that will affect things. IMO the ships will have a distinctly Germanic look, if not made in Germany. This also brings up the effects of the additional Netherlands ports and in the event of an actual alliance between the Netherlands and Germany, how the availability of Dutch colonial ports being open for the combined forces of the two nations. Commerce raiding by them will be decidedly more influential, and more difficult for the RN and MN to counter.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 05 May 2021 14:55

I'd say that united/enlarged Dutch Navy would be max double the size of the actual Dutch, with plenty of shipbuilding and design capacity fro anything up to cruiser size. Capital ships would probably have come from Germany indeed. But destroyer, submarine and cruiser wise the enlarged Dutch Navy could be self sufficient. This new size would still not matter much on a global or even European scale. Helpful for protecting the European coast and for protecting the Indies and other colonies.

Opening Dutch naval bases to the German Imperial Navy, like Den Helder, Flushing, Ostend or even Dunkirk and Calais in some scenario's would be very threatening to the UK. Opening up Ambon, Curaçao, Sabang, Surabaya and others would be a step towards war with Britain. It can be done, but the Dutch must be sure of their case.

Those colonies would in any version of the above scenario be vulnerable, especially with substantial German backing/protection.

Rivals to the Dutch/German empire building effort would seek to frustrate or prevent its growth and Britain might be triggered to prevent he Dutch from consolidating their Indies colonies. This consolidation/final conquest took place in OTL in the early 20th century - around the same time as the second Anglo-Boer War for instance. Brits might seize Sumatra and the rest of Borneo and safeguard Singapore and its approaches...

Dutch were able to consolidate the Indies because they were neutral. In any other situation they might become prey.

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Re: What if Belgian secession in 1830 failed

Post by nuyt » 05 May 2021 15:09

So my take at a possible survival of the united Netherlands through a WW1 would be the following:

- the United NL should stay neutral and keep its defense in good order: a part professional Army, in good defensive positions along the Meuse and near the Flemish coast, further North the actual water lines would still be used. The Ardennes would remain lightly defended as the Dutch-Belgians would prefer to defend their industries, cities and ports. No further ventures have been undertaken towards France, so there is no hostility there.
- a doubly strong Navy and colonial Army would protect the Indies and the small territories in the Caribbean. There is no Congo in this scenario (because there is no King Leopold);
- though Dutch volunteers have joined the Boers and weapons have been supplied before the war, the United NL stays aloof of the local war.

In 1914 the Germans still have the option to march through the Ardennes, in which case they will breach a neutral frontier of a well organized, wealthy and well prepared and defended Kingdom, with their main forces holed up behind a string of fortresses, rivers, water barriers. A Kingdom with the right to join the Allies, if the Germans have started hostilities. But why would Germany invade? Their forward positions are in Alsace-Lorraine, right? They can still attack from there or - why not -remain on the defensive until the war peters out? I'd say the Germans leave the United NL alone and dig in and slug it out from their own lands.

If they remain neutral and resurface after WW1 with everything fully intact, the united NL are in for another round of further growth, stability and wealth.

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