When I was younger, I watched the History Channel's dogfights a lot, an I eventually realized that it was all the same recycled CGI dogfights.
 
When I was younger, I watched the History Channel's dogfights a lot, an I eventually realized that it was all the same recycled CGI dogfights.
'History Channel' ... CGI ... sounds like they've missed a rather important point somewhere...
It makes the programmes I'm thinking of sound good ... at least the much-sunk Szent Istvan is real footage (ditto Barham, as Tigercat rightly says).

Meanwhile, back to making up my own version of history...
 
The Breakthrough
The Breakthrough

At the end of July, the Germans were still holding the lines near Ypres, distracted as they were by the British beachhead at Zeebrugge. Difficulties in supply remained; despite temporary repairs to the tracks and switches near Antwerp, one of the main lateral lines behind the front remained out of action due to ongoing British shelling.

On the 1st August, another massive bombardment began south of Ypres, and on the 3rd, troops advanced under cover of a rolling barrage, successfully penetrating the German defences as far as the second line. With carefully husbanded reserves, the German launched a counterattack on the 7th, but it was limited in scale and only dislodged the weaker British positions.
The 8th August would later be called the ‘Black Day of the German Army’, as 331 British and French tanks punched through the Hindenburg Line along a six-mile front towards Cambrai. There was no preparatory bombardment, but the tanks and infantry were again covered by a light rolling barrage which started with the advance.
At Ypres, and elsewhere, attacks against trenches were being made one line at a time, and German counterattacks had frequently retaken captured ground. At Cambrai, multiple lines of German trenches were penetrated, and by lunchtime the British had advanced almost four miles. The attack should have taken place in concert with the main offensive at Ypres but had been delayed due to wet weather and the need to amass so many tanks in one place. However, the delay may well have favoured the British, as the Germans had used the time to send more of their reserves north. Two days later, the tank attack had bogged down on the outskirts of Cambrai itself, but this was close enough for artillery to threaten the German supply lines that ran to the north of the town.

Further south, the French Army now began to rouse itself from its summer of discontent. French troops had suffered three years of bloody defeat and stalemate, through a series of grinding battles that chewed through ranks of men who were often poorly paid and poorly fed. They had been promised victory time and time again, but after the failed Nivelle offensive of April 1917, the men of the Army had had enough. Through the spring and early summer, almost half of them had been in a state of mutiny, although the soldiers’ insistence that they would continue to hold the lines meant that the true scale of the revolt was concealed from both the British and the Germans.
Concessions had been made regarding pay and conditions and the commanders had since been changed once again, but the real difference was in what the men saw and heard. Before August, ‘victory’ had merely been a word spoken by their Generals, but now they could see the reports of what was happening in Belgium. Once again, the men of the French Army dared to dream that victory was possible, and on the 16th August, they rose from the trenches south of St Quentin with renewed ferocity.

To General Ludendorf, the enemy’s objective was clear; to hold the German army in battle in the centre near Ypres, while trying to cut it off from the north and south. If the Russians were about to collapse (as the High Command hoped they were), it was therefore a question of maintaining a defensive line in the West for a few more months, until troops from the East were available to attempt a counter-offensive to trap a large portion of the British Army against the coast with a sudden, shock breakthrough.
Nevertheless, the current picture looked grim. The British were firing staggering quantities of shells from both land and sea, while the last available German units had been committed to resist the French in the south. By the evening of the 17th, the possibility of such a vast encirclement appeared very real, as the supply situation to the north of Ypres grew worse.

At Cambrai, the British had shown that there was a way through the trench lines, gaining over four miles of ground on the first day, while the French attacks to the south were drawing attention away from the salient thus created. German forces were in no position to launch counterattacks in the north, and any attempts by the Navy to support operations in Belgium were being thwarted by aggressive British patrolling and mining operations. Here, the Royal Navy was losing ships and men to mines, light craft and U-boats, but they could afford to lose them if it kept the Germans off-balance. Faced with ongoing attacks and the possibility of becoming trapped in a huge salient, General Ludendorf believed that it was impossible to hold the Belgian coast in the current circumstances.

The German High Command knew the solution lay in the East. While Russia continued to fight, millions of German troops were needed on that front. An offensive in the East had been planned for some time, and on the 17th August, the German Army and Navy therefore launched a new attack to try to force Russia to come to terms. The objectives of Operation Albion were to occupy islands in the Baltic, and then advance through the coastal states to threaten St Petersburg.
However, even if Albion succeed, victory in the East would not be instantaneous and it would then take at least 2-3 weeks to move significant numbers of troops from East to West and deploy them in an effective way. General Ludendorf therefore began to prepare for a withdrawal from the Belgian coast to a new line to the west of Antwerp and Brussels; a defensive position that he planned to hold until reinforcements became available.

The largest battle was still going on around Ypres, but the attacks at Zeebrugge, Cambrai and St Quentin had drawn German reserves away. Slowly but surely, Commonwealth forces were making progress as they advanced to take a line or strongpoint, then dug in to consolidate. The pattern of trench warfare had changed; in previous battles a counterattack a day or two later would usually have recovered the lost ground, and everyone would have been back where they started.
However, with no reserves available, these counterattacks were fewer and weaker than before, and so British gains were often held. For both sides, it was still a bloody, slow business, but for the British, it was working.

Despite Ludendorf’s decision to withdraw, German forces were therefore unable to disengage completely. Retreat would not be easy, and it was to the credit of the soldiers and junior officers of the Kaiser's army that so many were able to move. Second-line troops and some supply dumps were successfully withdrawn, before sections of the front line attempted to pull back in evening or night movements. However, while many of the men were saved, much heavy equipment and all the prepared positions along the Belgian coast had to be left behind.

The British continued their slow but steady offensive. On 20th August, Langermarck fell. Three days later, the British and Canadians took and held just over a mile of ground along the road towards Menin, and established positions on the East side of Polygon Wood. The next attack was in the centre, where on the 25th August, advanced units of the Fifth Army reached the town of Passchendaele.
Two days later, British, New Zealand and Canadian troops broke through the weakened defences of the final German line and were out into open country.
 

SsgtC

Banned
The 8th August would later be called the ‘Black Day of the German Army’, as 331 British and French tanks punched through the Hindenburg Line along a six-mile front towards Cambrai. There was no preparatory bombardment, but the tanks and infantry were again covered by a light rolling barrage which started with the advance.
This seems a bit early for the massed use of tanks. The idea wasn't even proposed until early August and GHQ didn't approve it for months. I could see moving the Battle of Cambri up a little, but almost 4 months earlier is, IMO, not believable and beyond the realm of what would be possible. I could see pushing it to maybe early or mid October, but the first week of August compared to the last week of November is just too big a jump I think.
 
This seems a bit early for the massed use of tanks. The idea wasn't even proposed until early August and GHQ didn't approve it for months. I could see moving the Battle of Cambri up a little, but almost 4 months earlier is, IMO, not believable and beyond the realm of what would be possible. I could see pushing it to maybe early or mid October, but the first week of August compared to the last week of November is just too big a jump I think.

Massed use of tanks (on a smaller scale than at Cambri had been used less successfully by both the British and French during early 1917

Cambri used a combination of massed tank and new massed Artillery (that was 'silently registered' so as not to betray the increased number of guns)/infantry tactics as well as new ground support tactics by the RAF

The Alignment of all 3 new methods 4 months earlier is un-likely - however they all existed to one point or another in Aug 1917 and the most important feature in this battle is that with the fighting to the North and Belgium coast as well as the French offensive to the south the Germans unlike OTL have no effective reserves with which to counter attack.

So a massed tank attack without the Air support and 'silently massed artillery' of OTL may be more than enough to take the town and unhinge the German defenses to the North of Cambri.
 
This seems a bit early for the massed use of tanks. The idea wasn't even proposed until early August and GHQ didn't approve it for months. I could see moving the Battle of Cambri up a little, but almost 4 months earlier is, IMO, not believable and beyond the realm of what would be possible. I could see pushing it to maybe early or mid October, but the first week of August compared to the last week of November is just too big a jump I think.
Massed use of tanks (on a smaller scale than at Cambri had been used less successfully by both the British and French during early 1917

Cambri used a combination of massed tank and new massed Artillery (that was 'silently registered' so as not to betray the increased number of guns)/infantry tactics as well as new ground support tactics by the RAF

The Alignment of all 3 new methods 4 months earlier is un-likely - however they all existed to one point or another in Aug 1917 and the most important feature in this battle is that with the fighting to the North and Belgium coast as well as the French offensive to the south the Germans unlike OTL have no effective reserves with which to counter attack.

So a massed tank attack without the Air support and 'silently massed artillery' of OTL may be more than enough to take the town and unhinge the German defenses to the North of Cambri.

I think Cryhavoc has put most of the good points already, but I'll add a bit of sequencing and background as I see it.
As far as planning goes, in the story it's based on a different approach to the summer 1917 offensive by the British.
In reality, Passchendaele was it - with a few other suggestions such as Operation Hush 'tacked on'. As SsgtC rightly points out, the real Cambrai wasn't planned until late in the year.

In the story, I'm expecting they have more resources available (essentially due to no Ottoman campaign), so their plans can be more ambitious. Those resources are shared between the operations on the Belgian coast, the offensive at Cambrai, and at Ypres itself.
In these circumstances, I suspect it's fair for Ludendorf to suspect an attempted encirclement from north and south to cut off a German army (it's what he would attempt to do) - and it's exactly what the British want him to think.
However, the Zeebrugge and Cambrai attacks are really only huge diversions - the main offensive is still at Ypres.

Availability of tanks was always a problem, which is why I've tried to minimise suggestions of their use elsewhere. The story's Cambrai also uses somewhat fewer of them, and was launched with some French support. I haven't suggested air-cooperation or the sophisticated counter-battery methods used in reality, because I regard those as the most 'advanced', and therefore the least realistic in any earlier attack (and I don't like 'over-optimising' history, even though I'm guilty occasionally!).

In the grand scheme, I'm still picturing this as a typical series of Great War battles; with the objective of bringing pressure to bear on the enemy on a number of fronts, and then grinding him down until he breaks. However, by this stage the Germans are spread so thin that every offensive is likely to be just a bit more successful than it would have been in reality.
 
Advance on all Fronts
Advance on all Fronts

In Britain, the breakthrough at Passchendaele would enter the history books as ‘the battle that won the war’. Naturally, German, French or Russian histories would paint a different picture.
It is fair to say that no one battle won the Great War, but it can legitimately be argued that the British advance at Ypres and the French offensive at St Quentin gave a decisive push to the military and political events that followed.

German forces in the East were still fully occupied. In March, Bolshevik leaders in exile had been transported through Germany to reach Russia, and their presence had since re-invigorated the communist movement. After the Russian summer offensive failed, the German High Command hoped that these groups would seize power and be forced to sue for peace, but by the middle of August there was still no sign of this happening.
Operation Albion was therefore launched in the hope that another defeat would finally drive Russia out of the war. The early phases went well, as Russian front lines disintegrated and Riga was captured, and by the end of August an attack towards Revel was being prepared.

By that time, the French offensive and the advance around Cambrai had stalled. The British had advanced ten miles, the French barely four. However, those offensives and the landings on the Belgian coast had served their purposes; to draw off German reserves, weakening the centre, suggesting the possibility of encirclement and menacing the enemy’s lines of communication.
The ‘breakthrough’ at Passchendaele had happened partly due to Ludendorf’s earlier decision to withdraw to new lines further East, and the Allied advance was then interrupted by dogged rear-guard actions and was further slowed by unusually wet weather.
Despite this good fortune for the Germans, the front was not stabilised as far west as Ludendorf had planned. The withdrawal continued towards Antwerp, and although it was still far from a rout, the habit of retreat was entering the psyche of many German soldiers.

On 2nd September, the Allies launched a fresh attack against a German position guarding the road towards Mons. Although most of the attacking forces were French, for the first time soldiers of the American 1st Division were also in the line.
The new commander of the French Army, General Petain, had persuaded his government to pressure the Americans into releasing part of their trained forces. The American commander, General Pershing, was reluctant to commit his troops too early, as he wanted time to build up a large, well-trained force that would be able to bring decisive pressure. However, the politicians in Washington could see that the American Expeditionary Force must be seen to play its part in the recent successes in Europe, and Pershing was ordered to release men to fight alongside the French.
Even so, Pershing sent as few men as he could, but once they were under French command, Petain put them front-and-centre to ensure that the Germans would know they were there. It would be brutal baptism of fire for the doughboys, but that was exactly what the French General intended. On the eve of the attack, he wrote in his diary;
‘The American Army will be well represented in the forthcoming battle. Their presence will raise the morale of our soldiers and intensify the attack, while even the sight of an American corpse will be a blow to German morale.’

On the 6th September, with reports that American troops were now in action, Ludendorf voiced his opinion to the High Command and the Kaiser that the war in the West could no longer be won, and he recommended that the Army should prepare plans to withdraw from much of Belgium. The Kaiser was incredulous and dismissed him, and Field-Marshall Hindenburg assumed complete command that afternoon, with orders to hold the lines. The Kaiser was in no mood to listen to reason, and so the Field-Marshall chose to keep his doubts to himself. He did, however, ensure that the dismissed Ludendorf did not go far from the High Command.

In the Alps, the Austrians and Italians had been lodged in a bloody stalemate, but on 16th August, the Italians launched a fresh offensive on the Isonzo River, driving the Austrians off the Bainsizza Plateau and making slow progress along the coast. By the start of September, the Italians were shelling positions around Trieste, and the advance was only being slowed by what few Austrian reinforcements could be transported from the lines in the East.
Further south, backed by the British, French and Italians, Serbian forces were advancing to liberate their homeland, and there was little the Austro-Hungarian Army could do to stop them.
 
If the Germans offer to withdraw to prewar borders, or something of the like, could the German Empire still survive, or would the allies be determined to completely defeat them?
 
If the Germans offer to withdraw to prewar borders, or something of the like, could the German Empire still survive, or would the allies be determined to completely defeat them?

After that much blood and treasure spilt? No, they're going to want to dismember Germany.
 
Great updates, and I doubt they'd go for a complete dismantlement, it depends on what happens. In the East the Germans are holding, in the West they're pulling back as fast as possible. If they've got some more defences waiting they could stop an allied attack and have a semi-white peace.
 

SsgtC

Banned
France needs Alsace-Lorraine back.
No, France wants Alsace-Lorraine back. If Germany pulls out of Belgium and offers a return to prewar borders with other details to be worked out after, the UK and the US will tell France to get bent and if they want AL back, they can do it by themselves. The status of AL was not a war aim by either the UK or the US. In OTL, by the time Germany surrendered, they just didn't care and backed France out of spite more than anything. I don't see that happening here.
 

Deleted member 94680

No, France wants Alsace-Lorraine back. If Germany pulls out of Belgium and offers a return to prewar borders with other details to be worked out after, the UK and the US will tell France to get bent and if they want AL back, they can do it by themselves. The status of AL was not a war aim by either the UK or the US. In OTL, by the time Germany surrendered, they just didn't care and backed France out of spite more than anything. I don't see that happening here.

Ethnic division of Alsace-Lorraine to "solve" the issue once and for all?
 
Maybe. But I don't buy the pure white peace idea. French domestic politics demands something to show from the war - it's just that A-L is the obvious totem. If the German army is being defeated in the field, then the French will demand something to show for it. This could be A-L, it could be part of A-L, it could be military restrictions on Germany.

While the US and UK may not particularly care about A-L, they do care about defeating Germany, and won't throw France under the bus just because France's initial demands are excessive. Negotiations will not be easy or quick, but time favours the Entente here.
 

Deleted member 94680

Going by various copied of what seems to broadly be the same map on the internet, there could be a "fair" division of the Territory where German and French speakers are assigned to their respective sides of the border.
 

Attachments

  • 310px-Alsace-Lorraine_Dialects.png
    310px-Alsace-Lorraine_Dialects.png
    143.5 KB · Views: 187
:)
I think the phrase 'All of the Above' is quite appropriate.

The Germans have lost some major battles, but they know they haven't lost the war. They're now in the process of realising that the truth might be: they haven't lost the war ... yet.
Conversely, as SsgtC, diestormlie and King Augeas point out in different ways, the Allies aren't exactly unified.
Everyone still has a few cards to play (except perhaps A-H, while Russia's only card is probably its continued existence as a semi-functional state)

Without wanting to give too much away, I have always thought a pure 'white peace' would have been fairly implausible. Even in 1916 they all hated each other too much to just walk away without being forced to do so.
Perhaps a brown-ish peace (as in let's sign before we all end up in the you-know-what!) created out of a blend of mutual fears and exhaustion ...?
 
If the Germans offer to withdraw to prewar borders, or something of the like, could the German Empire still survive, or would the allies be determined to completely defeat them?
Great updates, and I doubt they'd go for a complete dismantlement, it depends on what happens. In the East the Germans are holding, in the West they're pulling back as fast as possible. If they've got some more defences waiting they could stop an allied attack and have a semi-white peace.

Both sides are winning somewhere, so there's a little room for compromise ... but probably rather awkward ones.
Both sides have also had some nasty shocks (e.g. the German defeat in Belgium, and the iffy situation in Russia and with the U-boats for the Allies).
As you say, it is partly a question of what is held, or what anyone else can do about it.
 
:)
I think the phrase 'All of the Above' is quite appropriate.

The Germans have lost some major battles, but they know they haven't lost the war. They're now in the process of realising that the truth might be: they haven't lost the war ... yet.
Conversely, as SsgtC, diestormlie and King Augeas point out in different ways, the Allies aren't exactly unified.
Everyone still has a few cards to play (except perhaps A-H, while Russia's only card is probably its continued existence as a semi-functional state)

Without wanting to give too much away, I have always thought a pure 'white peace' would have been fairly implausible. Even in 1916 they all hated each other too much to just walk away without being forced to do so.
Perhaps a brown-ish peace (as in let's sign before we all end up in the you-know-what!) created out of a blend of mutual fears and exhaustion ...?
A white peace is a German victory simply because German industry is only starved of resources (blockade) unlike the French and Belgian ones which had been occupied, pillaged and/or destroyed.
There is also destruction from the fighting and the war crimes committed by German forces in the occupied areas.
And then, there is the little problem of the invasion of Belgium by Germany, a country which they guaranteed the independence.

Ethnic division of Alsace-Lorraine to "solve" the issue once and for all?
French is not an ethnicity for the French Republic. Alsatian are French citizen, even those who only spoke German.
And just saying, but almost all the iron is in French speaking areas.
 
Last edited:
Top