Who should win the 1920 election?

  • Charles Evans Hughes (Republican)

    Votes: 35 87.5%
  • James Cox (OTL Democratic nominee)

    Votes: 4 10.0%
  • Other Democratic nominee (please specify who!)

    Votes: 1 2.5%

  • Total voters
    40
With 100000+ AH troops in the East, might we see a more prolonged/more successful Gorlice-Tarnow operation? Particularly one leading to a Central Powers capture of Minsk or Riga?

Nope, no Gallipoli.

That's over three hundrded thousand Turks not fighting in Gallipoli. I would expect them to crush the Arab revolt very quickly, or launch a big offensive in Egypt or the Caucasus. Perhaps the war will end with the Ottoman Turks having forces in Batumi or Cairo?

Or else, given that @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth mentioned how balanced the libyan war is, we could see joint Italian and Turkish attacks on Egypt in a grand pincer? That would probably be enough to force a British surrender.

Ataturk will get a mention iTTL, I promise, but I haven't decided what yet... :)

Perhaps as a leader of a modernist party in the Ottoman Empire after the war? One who is arrested and becomes a dissident?
 

Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
With 100000+ AH troops in the East, might we see a more prolonged/more successful Gorlice-Tarnow operation? Particularly one leading to a Central Powers capture of Minsk or Riga?



That's over three hundrded thousand Turks not fighting in Gallipoli. I would expect them to crush the Arab revolt very quickly, or launch a big offensive in Egypt or the Caucasus. Perhaps the war will end with the Ottoman Turks having forces in Batumi or Cairo?

Or else, given that @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth mentioned how balanced the libyan war is, we could see joint Italian and Turkish attacks on Egypt in a grand pincer? That would probably be enough to force a British surrender.



Perhaps as a leader of a modernist party in the Ottoman Empire after the war? One who is arrested and becomes a dissident?

The logistics struggled to support the OTL Ottoman forces in Sinai / Palestine / Syria, not so much in Mesopotamia. Rather than combat troops, the most useful men the Central Powers could send would be engineers, particularly railroad engineers, preferably along with the rails. That would make a real difference.

The Turkish Army would keep large numbers of men in Thrace & Gallipoli until reasons to distrust either the Greeks or the Bulgars are dispersed. Berlin & Vienna leaning on both countries would be more useful than an army corps.

Assuming Greece & Bulgaria toe the CP line, I could see priority front for the Turks being the Caucasus, then secondary Mesopotamia. We could see CP expeditionary forces in the former, especially artillery and mountain troops.
 
Chapter 4- Gorlice-Tarnow: The Floodgates Open
Chapter Four- Gorlice-Tarnow: The Floodgates Open

For the first months of the Great War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had found itself in a two-front war: trying to expel the Russian bear from Galicia in the north while being humbled time and time again by the plucky Serbians. Fighting a two-front war is never easy- it’s like juggling not one dagger but two. Yet, Austria-Hungary fought valiantly, its men not giving up despite the lack of competence shown by their officers. And all the while, the Dual Monarchy was fighting with one hand tied behind its back, for there was a widespread fear in Vienna that the Italians were about to join the Entente, thus creating a third front. Even today, historians have reached a consensus that being forced to fight a three-front war would’ve been more than the Dual Monarchy could take, that they had no hope of holding off Russia and Italy simultaneously while also conquering Serbia.

Thus, the results of the Second Vienna Conference and subsequent Italian declaration of war on the Entente provoked an enormous sigh of relief from Austria-Hungary’s leaders. With their Italian flank thus protected, the Austro-Hungarians concentrated more fully on Russia. It was a good thing, too, for the forces of the Dual Monarchy had taken quite a battering. They had lost much territory and manpower in 1914 and then been bloodied in heavy yet inconclusive fighting over the winter. It was decided that a small, local offensive to poke the Russian lines would be useful in the spring, and plans were consequently drawn up. However, eternally optimistic, Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf dreamt of expanding the operation, pointing to telltale signs of Russian weakness. Although they still held Galicia, the Russians had lost western Poland, and their economy and morale were showing signs of weakness- as shown by deserters telling tales of soldiers retrieving rifles and ammunition from the bodies of their dead comrades, since they lacked such things themselves, and of Russian troops being massacred in gas attacks because they lacked masks. Martial glory, that quality generals always invoke when asking for lives to throw away and bullets to kill with, could be achieved, Conrad insisted, but German reinforcements would be necessary. Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, the German duo who had won glory and respectability in all matters pertaining to the Eastern Front after their victory at Tannenberg the year before, agreed with von Hotzendorf, as did the young Crown Prince Wilhelm. Thus, the initial, modest plan was scrapped, and the brass hats in Vienna and Berlin began talking about the great Eastern offensive of 1915. General August von Mackensen was given command of the 126,000-strong Eleventh Army and sent to Galicia. He was accompanied by numerous German military advisers to assist the Austro-Hungarians on a tactical level. Conrad, meanwhile, drew on his considerable strategic reserves to assemble a force of five armies- the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh- some 190,000 strong. (1) The Russians were aware of the buildup but unable to do much, and a fatal spirit of complacency pervaded Grand Duke Nikolai’s headquarters. Thus, on 1 May, the storm broke.

By this point in the war, overoptimistic generals predicting every offensive to follow the pattern of a crushing artillery barrage to flatten the frontline trenches, followed by the infantry going over the top, blasting a wide hole through the lines in the first day, and enjoying a newly requisitioned supper fifteen miles ahead of where they started off, had become a tired cliche. Men on both sides had become profanely cynical about it, and the Austro-Germans in the trenches when Gorlice-Tarnow kicked off were no different- oh, to be sure, there were a few true believers who expected that this time really would be different!, but for the most part the men knew what to expect. Conrad’s brilliant tactical plan would be shown up by the Russian machine guns, and the only thing that would change would be their deaths.

They had never been so pleased to be wrong.

The Austro-German advance was well-organised, well-planned and of course numerically quite superior to anything the Russians could put in its place. Falkenhayn drove his 216,000 men like mules, setting them strict quotas for territory every day, which had to be met… or else. When Russian machine-gun positions held up the attackers, artillery blasted them to smithereens, and the tide rolled on. Russian units melted like butter in a pan, and by the seventh of May, Mackensen was able to report to Berlin that he had reached that promised land known as Breakthrough- the Russian trench lines had been cracked open, and the Austro-Germans could feast upon the soil of Poland. (2) Grand Duke Nikolai was aware that his whole position in the Carpathians was becoming unhinged, and that if the Austro-Germans were to advance northeast from their breakthrough zone between Gorlice and Tarnow, his force could be cut off. Thus, biting his lip, the Russian commander gave orders to abandon Galicia. No doubt, the decision was prudent one given that it saved his army in the long run, but it meant that the Russian forces were condemned to a summer of long, slow retreat, always firing Parthian shots at the approaching enemy as town after town was lost. Premsyl was taken on the thirtieth of May, and Lemberg fell three weeks later. By the fourth week in July, Czernowitz and Tarnopol had been taken, after which the Central Powers ceased operations in the Galician theatre. The Austro-Hungarian frontier province had been taken, and Bohemia and Hungary could breathe an awful lot easier now.

The main juggernaut, however, showed no signs of stopping. Resisting the torrent of Austro-German troops flooding out of the Gorlice-Tarnow gap into Poland was already proving too much for the Russians, who had lost Ivangorod and Lublin by the start of August- a retreat of almost 200 kilometres over three months, or approximately 1.4 miles per day- not a tremendous speed to be sure, but make no mistake: this was the most fluid and fast-paced the war had been since the Battle of the Marne, and to those Central Powers commanders used to reading about tens of thousands of lives traded for a few scraps of Flanders or Savoy, a refreshing breath of fresh air indeed. In a month’s fighting, hundreds of thousands of their number (3) had been killed and half a million scarce rifles lost. Now, this beleaguered army was forced to extend its active front.

EasternFront1915b.jpg


On the thirteenth of July, after a long debate between Erich von Falkenhayn and the Hindenburg-Ludendorff partnership, the Germans launched their own offensive into Poland. Their Ninth Army- augmented by Army Detachment Woyrsch- was more than a match for the Russian First Army stationed in northwest Poland. With the Austro-Hungarian tide sweeping past their rear, the First Army would’ve been mad to stand and fight. Yet, retreat wasn’t the most optimal course, as not only was First Army badly mauled as it fled, it sacrificed valuable territory to the Germans. Warsaw was occupied on the fifth of August, bringing an end to exactly a century of Russian rule- not until 1941 would the city hear the rumble of guns again (4)- and all of northern Poland soon met its fate. Brest-Litovsk and Bialystock fell within twenty-four hours of each other- on the 26th and 27th of August, respectively- bringing a de facto end to Congress Poland. Yet, the Central Powers had not run out of steam yet, nor had the Russians reached a suitable line upon which to regroup and assess the damage. Throughout August and September, the Austro-Germans gleefully chased the enemy out of Lithuania and into the western fringes of White Russia and Ukraine. Dvinsk fell on 27 September, after which the Germans set their sights on Riga. The Latvian city would fall in the first week of October, after which the advance finally ran out of steam.

The Central Powers had outrun their supply lines and had in places travelled over three hundred and fifty kilometres. Men and horses needed to rest, rifles and bullets needed to reach the troops at the front, proper casualty analyses had to be taken, and Poland had to be integrated into the war economy of the Central Powers. Casualty figures are spotty, but perhaps 150,000 Austro-German troops died over five months of fighting. With their deaths, they had purchased a great victory for their cause. The resources of Poland and Lithuania would prove invaluable to the Central Powers over the remainder of the war, while all threat to their homelands was gone. Mobility, that trait much coveted by every general for months, had been restored. German and Austro-Hungarian morale spiked as the troops settled down to the pleasurable task of overseeing the collection of the Polish harvest at bayonet point.


Kaiser Wilhelm II visiting newly conquered Riga, November 1915
kaiserwilhelmriga.jpg

Not bad for something conceived as a minor offensive in the mountains of Galicia.

With the Eastern Front guaranteed to remain quiet until well into 1916, the Central Powers asked themselves, “where do we go next?” Serbia was finally quelled, an Austro-Italo-German-Bulgarian force having crushed it in September, and mopping-up was all that was left to do. The Ottoman Empire’s position was, if not ideal, then certainly not on the verge of collapse. Austria-Hungary had zero interest in sending men to bleed in the French Alps- and Italian pride would never stomach the idea, anyway. Thus, in a series of memoranda and conferences throughout the winter of 1915-16, Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn and his colleagues settled on a new strategy to win in 1916. Germany would continue to occupy Poland and Lithuania, and would dispatch military advisers to the Italians and Ottomans. Austria-Hungary, meanwhile, would assume the bulk of responsibility for the Eastern Front, while Germany turned west…

From the Russian perspective, the end of the storm came not a minute too soon. The previous five months had seen their armies shattered and their whole position in the war broken well beyond repair. Galicia, brought and held at the cost of many lives, was gone. Poland was gone, and with it any chance of threatening German Silesia. Lithuania and Riga were both gone, with Minsk and Latvia under threat. Much of Bessarabia was gone, snatched over the summer by an opportunistic Romania- this raised the spectre of having to defend Odessa in the future. (5) But worst of all, three-quarters of a million Russians lay dead on Polish soil. (6) It would be easy enough to pull another 750,000 warm bodies off the streets and farms of the Russian Empire, but to do so would have societal and economic consequences which would come back to haunt the Tsarist regime down the road. Furthermore, these green replacements would lack the experience of the veterans lost at Gorlice-Tarnow, and experience is all too often bought at a cost in human lives- to say nothing of the severe equipment shortages these new men would face. The length of the front had stretched from approximately 750 miles to just over nine hundred.

Politically, the debacle on the Eastern Front had serious consequences for Russia. Grand Duke Nikolai was, not unreasonably, made the scapegoat and sacked. However, this was far from enough. With their inadequacy so painfully shown up, many Russian troops began asking questions. What were they doing in this bloody war, giving their lives for a government that couldn’t even provide them with rifles, rations, or gas masks? Why were they giving their lives to get chased out of village after village which they’d never been to and had no connection with? Why wasn’t the government providing their families back home with enough to live on? When would they stop a bullet or shell like so many of their fallen comrades? And- most important of all- what could they do about it?




  1. 100,000 of these men were on the Italian front IOTL.
  2. The presence of an additional 100,000 Austro-Hungarians means that the breakthrough occurs sooner (it was on the 9th ITTL). Numerous events in TTL’s Gorlice-Tarnow occur slightly sooner than in OTL or have higher Russian casualty figures than OTL.
  3. Figures for Russian casualties vary widely, so I played it safe with “hundreds of thousands.” If anyone has some more reliable numbers, please comment and I’ll happily retcon!
  4. Let the guessing game begin! :)
  5. I’ll explain more in the next update, but yeah, ITTL Romania joins the Central Powers. The next update will be devoted to Romania and the Balkans more generally.
  6. See footnote three- a very rough estimate.


Comments?
 
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Not too different from OTL-- Gallipoli has been butterflied away, so the Turks have more manpower on the other fronts than OTL. Following TTL's Kut al-Amara, some in Constantinople are contemplating an offensive towards Kuwait...
 

Gendarmerie

Banned
Are the British/French considering sending expeditionary forces to Russia or at least trainers to help rebuild it's military since they are even worse that OTL?
 
Not really, no. Sending tens of thousands of troops from Scotland to Archangel, and then to the front, would be a logistical nightmare made worse by German subs (that's how General Kitchener died, torpedoed en route to Russia).

A few officers to help train, maybe.

But given that France is stretched way worse than OTL by having two fronts to fight on, they won't be sending troops anywhere. Spoiler: the Salonika front will be totally butterflied.

Britain is also more stretched, as it has more ground to cover on the Western Front (seeing as how France has well over 100,000 troops in Italy).
 

Gendarmerie

Banned
Wonder of the Japanese are regretting supporting the British instead of staying neutral and possibly attack their colonies while they are busy in Europe plus maybe claim part of Siberia and it's resources from Russia
 
Nice update, @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth.

But I'm not so sure why Romania would join the central powers like you say in footnote 5.

King Ferdinand was very pro-Entente, and he married a Russian if I remember correctly.
Plus, allying with the cp's is kind of saying that "we don't care about Transylvania anymore". Kinda implausible, since that had been a big point of tension for ages.


Wonder of the Japanese are regretting supporting the British instead of staying neutral and possibly attack their colonies while they are busy in Europe plus maybe claim part of Siberia and it's resources from Russia

I bet we'll see a German-Japanese rapprochement after the war.
With Japan giving back Qingdao and the islands in exchange for an anti-British alliance.
 
Chapter 5: Some Damn Fool Thing In The Balkans
Chapter Five- Some Damn Fool Thing In The Balkans
"Soldiers: I have summoned you to carry your standards beyond the frontier, where our brothers are waiting for you impatiently and with hearts filled with hope. The memory of the Great Voivodes Michael the Brave and Stephen the Great, whose remains lie in the earth which you are going to set free, call you to victory as men worthy of the victors of Razboeni, Capugareeni, and Paehna. I have summoned you to fight side by side with the men of the great nations to which we are allied. A desperate struggle awaits you. We shall bear these hardships manfully, and with God's help victory will be ours. Show yourselves worthy of the glory of your ancestors. In the centuries to come the whole race will bless you and sing your praises!"
- King Ferdinand's speech to the troops following his declaration of war on the Entente, 20 September 1915.

"The light goes out with me. I am the last king of my people. Yet... we will remember."
-King Peter of Serbia, January 1916.

"What I and my team hoped to do with this film is really to tell a passionate story. The story of our king, he's, he's a bit like King Arthur over in England... he's sort of a mythical figure we all remember for his bravery. And so, this film is conveying to Serbians of the twenty-first century the message that we have glory in our history, and we shouldn't be ashamed of that."
-Josef Daganik, director of the film Long March, in a 2019 press conference.

Had you asked Tommy Atkins, British private in the Ypres sector, why he wasn’t back home in Blighty, cup of tea in one hand and the Daily Mail in the other, with his wife making a nice Sunday roast in the kitchen, he’d probably have said something to the effect of “stopping the damn Jerries from conquering France and trying to free Belgium, of course!” And he’d be right. But, that same British soldier might’ve needed a minute to remember that the reason war had turned his life upside down, the reason he was risking his neck every single day, was because of Balkan geopolitics gone horribly wrong. Yet, that was part of the answer, and this chapter will explore the role played by the Balkans in the Great War.

The first Balkan country to ally themselves with Berlin and Vienna was Romania. They had had a turbulent time since achieving independence from the Ottoman Empire- Bulgarian betrayal of an agreement to reward Bucharest for neutrality in the First Balkan War had contributed to the Second, while Russia was strong, protective big brother one minute and a menacing colossus ready to chew the small kingdom up the next. On the one hand, King Carol was a Hohenzollern by blood, giving the kingdom an obvious inclination to side with the Central Powers, but on the other, the nobility was pro-Entente. The Russian province of Bessarabia was ethnic Romanian, and thus coveted by the government, but so was Austro-Hungarian Transylvania. Thus, neutrality seemed like the best option- the ascension of nationalistic, pro-Entente King Ferdinand only reinforced this stance.

However, the course of the war after Italy’s entrance forced many in Romania to change their views somewhat. Like Italy, Romania was a member of the Triple Alliance, and like Italy, it was not obligated to come to the aid of its allies in a war they started. However, Rome’s actions set a precedent, one which Ferdinand and his ministers feared Berlin would expect to be followed. If they remained neutral and the Central Powers came to dominate the Balkans, that would leave them isolated and unpopular… and surely, Bulgaria would be more than happy to take a bite out of their territory should they get German backing. As a bonus, Bessarabia seemed ripe for the taking, given how the Russian armies were being swept back.

Germany was quite happy to encourage Romanian interest in the Central Powers. Much as it had with Italy at the start of 1915, Berlin promised military equipment and advisers to enhance Romania’s war-making capacity, and “encouraged” Austria-Hungary to discuss greater autonomy for Transylvania and the transfer of several mountain passes to Bucharest- the Dual Monarchy was, naturally, just as pleased to hear these demands as they had been when they’d had to cede Trentino and Trieste. One concession made willingly, however, was the establishment of the “Transylvanian Legion”, a fresh Austro-Hungarian unit into which all Romanian soldiers within the empire were transferred. If Romania chose wisely, Vienna said, this unit would be sent to the Bessarabian front.

However, any Romanian plans for entering the war received a setback on the seventeenth of August 1915, when a massive ammunition dump in the country mysteriously exploded. (1) Much of their meagre reserve supplies was gone. Nevertheless, Romania was not to be deterred. Declaring that Russian agents had planted a bomb, an “investigation” was launched right about the time a German military mission was welcomed into Bucharest, and soon after that, the Russian ambassador was sent packing. King Ferdinand knew which way the wind was blowing, and he wanted to swim with the tide. He declared mobilisation on the first of September, and on the twentieth, war was declared on the Entente.

For Romania, joining the Central Powers was a sensible decision long-term, but it carried a high short-term cost. Their army had last been bloodied in the Second Balkan War, a relatively easy gang-up on Bulgaria. That small conflict had played a similar role for the Romanians as the Italo-Turkish War did for Italy: it was a win that should’ve been easier, and exposed plenty of weaknesses. Even before their great supply dump “accident”, the Romanian Army was severely deficient in the realm of logistics. Prewar production would keep the men supplied for a time, but once those stockpiles ran out, there would be trouble. Domestically, there were several protests in Bucharest and other cities amongst those who felt their nation had no place allying themselves with the Austro-Hungarians- after all, as any real patriot could tell you, the Hungarians are our mortal enemies! These protesters were never more than a small, albeit quite vocal, minority, and the police had no trouble quelling them.

Such protesters had something substantial to point to in the field as a sign that King Ferdinand was doing everything wrong, as militarily speaking, Romania had picked an unfortunate time to join the Central Powers. By late September, Gorlice-Tarnow was finally winding down, and the Russians could afford to transfer forces south. Approximately 200,000 Russian soldiers were transferred to Bessarabia in October, and another 200,000 fresh conscripts would be in place by the spring of 1916. Had they joined in the summer, with the Russians desperate for every man they could find to plug the gap in Poland, Romania might’ve been able to march all the way to Odessa with minimal casualties. Now, though, they would have to pay for their tickets to get in.

Bessarabia isn’t a large place, and- like the Western Front- is mostly flat steppe. Thus, the outnumbered Russian defenders- in October, the ratio was almost three Romanians for every Russian- took their cues from the French conduct in the autumn of 1914. Space was the one thing they possessed in abundance- after all, they had the endless Ukraine to retreat into if worst came to worst- and so they would trade some of it for time. General Alexander Ragoza, commander of the Russian Fourth Army, decided upon a retreat. The Russians would defend Balti, Chisinau, and Tirasopol, but the Romanians could have the empty plain which gave them nothing except more miles to drag their supplies across. In western Bessarabia, as they had in Poland, the Russians implemented a makeshift scorched earth policy- peasants had their livestock and grain confiscated before it could fall into enemy hands. By the middle of October, Russian troops had entrenched in front of Bessarabia’s three largest towns, and the brave Romanian infantry got their first real taste of barbed wire and machine-guns. From there, the Bessarabian sector of the Eastern Front settled down. As with everywhere else in the East, the sheer length of the front meant that fighting would be a bit more fluid than in the West (2)… but for now, much to the confusion and rage of the Romanian General Staff, who’d expected to be clinking glasses in the Crimea in two months, the front was going nowhere fast. If the autumn of 1915 brought frustrating stagnation to Romania, it brought triumph to Austria-Hungary as it quelled its old enemy at long last.

Serbia, tiny, plucky little Serbia, had lit the spark of the tinderbox in its refusal of the Austro-Hungarian demands of July 1914. Everyone had expected it to be crushed like a bug… but they were, of course, mistaken. Under the command of Field Marshal Radomir Putnik, the plucky Serbs and their veteran army- having been bloodied in two Balkan Wars while the Austro-Hungarians were sitting back doing nothing more dangerous than occupation duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina- repulsed not one, not two, but three attempts by incompetent officers of the Dual Monarchy to wipe them out. Even Belgrade, despite being literally on the hostile border, was retaken after a brief abandonment. All the silver lining the Austro-Hungarians could find was the knowledge that the Serbs hadn’t invaded Bosnia yet, and that no Slavic uprisings had occurred… that could have proven the death-knell for the regime. The situation in Serbia was, frankly, embarrassing to Vienna, as all the Habsburg gentlemen pictured the Serbs laughing at them, chuckling at how they got away with killing Franz Ferdinand.

Things simply couldn’t go on like this!

After Italy joined the Central Powers, over a hundred thousand Austro-Hungarians were freed for service elsewhere; as chronicled in the last update, they threw a powerful punch at the Russians in the form of Gorlice-Tarnow. Yet, while Poland fell like a ripe apple, plans were being made to correct this sorry state of affairs in the south. German diplomats were hard at work in Sofia throughout the summer, their efforts culminating with the signing of the 6 September Pless Convention, under which Bulgaria agreed to join the war in a month. German troops and advisers- including August von Mackensen, his star bright after Gorlice-Tarnow- arrived north of the Danube, and by the end of September, over 300,000 Austro-German forces were ready, along with a token Italian brigade and 58,000 Romanians. Against this force, Serbia could amass only 200,000 typhus-ridden troops whose supplies were running desperately low… but whose courage and patriotism were first-rate.


King Peter of Serbia; the last, valiant king of a doomed nation.
Peter_I_of_Serbia_(Rotary_Photo_7119_A).jpg


The fourth invasion of Serbia commenced on the sixth of October 1915. This time, God was not with the defenders of Belgrade, which fell after three days of fierce fighting. Only the logistical issues involved with getting heavy artillery across the Danube held back the Germans, but after a week and a half, that could no longer stop them and the valiant Serb soldier faced something Tommy Atkins would never see- his position overrun and his fatherland subject to occupation. Bulgaria plunged its dagger into Serbia’s back on the eleventh, and from there the end was in sight. No defensive line could be created that would halt both offensives; thus, the only option was retreat.

After a crippling defeat in the third week of November, King Peter gave the order to begin an exodus into Albania. 200,000 Serbs-, men, women, and children, military and civilian- fled to the small neutral state. Durazzo was the promised land from which the Royal Navy could hopefully take them to safety. Throughout the last month of 1915, the Serbs staggered through the mountains, fighting the Austrians and the elements in equal measure. The Central Powers pursued them through Albania and tiny Montenegro, determined not to let King Peter get away and form a government-in-exile. Starvation, combat, disease, and the bitter cold reduced the Serbs from 200,000 to 150,000 starving, haggled survivors when they staggered into Durazzo. The enemy was closing in fast, and there was no sign of a Royal Navy fleet to save them…

All the Entente’s admirals were in agreement that sending a fleet through the heavily mined Ionian Sea, where Austro-Hungarian and Italian ships would be waiting for them, guns loaded, would be suicide. With their naval resources stretched thin already, the propaganda value of having King Peter safe and sound in Cairo or Marseilles simply wasn’t worth the cost in men and ships. However, the indefatigable monarch wasn’t willing to give up yet, and he and a few followers- no more than 5,000- came up with a daring gambit. While most of the 150,000-odd survivors would remain in Albania, fighting off the enemy for as long as possible, a few would slip across the Greek border and try to either seek asylum or get picked up by a fleet in neutral waters.

The “Greek Gamble”, as it came to be known, was an act of desperation and everyone knew it. Winter, illness- King Peter himself came down with edema at some point during the trek, and had to be carried in a sedan chair- starvation, and exhaustion cost the Serbs a third of their men. Although the enemy had been delayed by the need to capture Durazzo, they soon turned on the king’s column. When King Peter and his entourage reached the Greek border town of Pikati on the second of March 1916, one border guard commented that “such a sad and sorry lot of men had never been seen before. They appeared, not as men, but as animals, cast out and left to die.” However, few Greeks saw the refugees in such humanitarian terms. For the country’s pro-German king, Constantine, King Peter was leading an Entente military action into sovereign, neutral, Greek territory. Honour compelled him to defend his country’s neutrality and resist this armed invasion- or so he told his people, anyhow. A desire to prevent the Central Powers from having any excuse to cross the border themselves might’ve had something to do with it as well. Thus, in the second week of March, Regular Army units arrived in the northwest and opened fire on the Serbs. Many were cut down and still more fled. King Peter himself, meanwhile, was taken prisoner and made to sign a declaration of “criminally violating the territorial integrity of Greece” , before being handed over to the Austro-Hungarians, who settled in for a nice long occupation of Montenegro, Albania, and half of Serbia.

Predictably, the propaganda agents in the Central Powers nations all trumpeted “Serbian aggression against Greece!” to the four winds, and the Entente nations all yelled about “desperate Serbian refugees cruelly fired against by the cowardly, collaborationist Greeks and their German queen!” (2) The whole incident left a bad taste in the Entente’s mouth with regards to Greece, which in the postwar years would substantially strengthen its relationships with both Germany and Austria-Hungary- although it could never bring itself to befriend Sofia or Constantinople.

In the postwar years, Serbs would come to idolise King Peter, often favourably comparing him to Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor. His name would become a symbol of resistance to Austro-Hungarian domination, and along with Gavrillo Princip, he would become something of a posthumous folk hero. Following the collapse of the Dual Monarchy, Serbs would publish numerous novels about him and the last dying days of their kingdom, including Exodus, The Long March, and Black Star over Serbia. All three would be filmed many times. Once Serbia regained its independence, pretty much every nationalist politician in the country would latch on to the late king's memory and clamour for the return of the Karađorđević dynasty- and even in 2020, a strong connection persists in Serbia between monarchism and nationalism.


The situation at the end of 1915
Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 3.39.09 pm.png


But back to 1915.
The Balkan state which gained the most was, without a doubt, Bulgaria. Roughly half of Serbia, Kosovo included, now lay under their occupation, while their casualties had been comparatively light. In essence, their pre-Second Balkan War position had been restored. With its immediate victory complete, Sofia’s interest in the war declined. Calls went out for Bulgaria to send an expeditionary force somewhere- to the Eastern Front or to prop the Turks up on one of their fronts- but King Ferdinand and his ministers all replied with “perhaps in a few months”. The only other area in which Bulgaria made a substantial contribution was in moving its fleet to the Romanian port of Constanza, from where the two navies could deter any potential Russian attack. Few in Bulgaria were enthusiastic about a long-term partnership with either Germany or Turkey, and both empire’s leaders looked down their noses at the opportunistic Bulgarians.

In sum, 1915 was the year in which the Balkans became aligned to Germany. With the exception of Greece, the whole peninsula was either aligned with or occupied by the Central Powers, and even Greece was on the cusp of diplomatically flirting with Berlin. But the war would not be decided on the peninsula. With its southeastern flank secure and land communications with Turkey solidly established, the German eagle turned its gaze west…

...and all the while, Tommy Atkins sat in his dugout in Flanders and wondered “why the hell for?”




  1. Something similar happened IOTL about a month before they joined the Entente- it was what prevented them from joining when the Brusilov Offensive was at its high point, and was unsurprisingly blamed on Austrian or German agents.
  2. Romania has almost 600,000 men in Bessarabia, and a German expeditionary force will probably get sent there at some point as well. As Russia’s problems worsen, its ability to keep 400,000 men entrenched in Bessarabia will lessen.
  3. King Constantine I was married to Sophia of Prussia.

Questions? Comments?
 
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Well Serbia is screwed as per usual with these kinds of scenarios. I can also see that Serbia and Greece will have a tense relationship in the future...but this is the Balkans where constant tension between nations is the norm so I'm sure they will be just fine (until the next war anyway).

Based on the map, France is in big trouble. If the US stays neutral then the Entente have no hope.
(Can't remember if you revealed earlier that the US gets involved or not)

Can't wait to see how postwar Europe will look like. I'm guessing something similar to the Kaiserreich mod but I could be wrong.
 
What's going on the middle east and Russian Turkish borders?

Not too different from OTL: no Gallipoli means that the Turks are in a better position overall, the Armenian Genocide is still, unfortunately, going on in full swing (and will be much more successful than OTL, to the point where the Armenian people will have been totally cleansed)*, and after TTL's Kut al-Amara, plans will be made for an advance on Kuwait.

Well Serbia is screwed as per usual with these kinds of scenarios. I can also see that Serbia and Greece will have a tense relationship in the future...but this is the Balkans where constant tension between nations is the norm so I'm sure they will be just fine (until the next war anyway).

Based on the map, France is in big trouble. If the US stays neutral then the Entente have no hope.
(Can't remember if you revealed earlier that the US gets involved or not)

Can't wait to see how postwar Europe will look like. I'm guessing something similar to the Kaiserreich mod but I could be wrong.

I should mention that although things are dark for Serbia at the moment, their star will eventually rise again. They will be a significant combatant in TTL's World War II... but more than that, I won't say...

The US won't be joining World War I, and France will surrender in 1916.

My mapping skills are subpar, but I plan to post a world map shortly after the war ends.


Central Powers seems an even more apposite title on the map.

Ha! You might be right there. ;)

*Obviously, not condoning the Armenian Genocide nor TTL Turkey's actions.
 
But I'm not so sure why Romania would join the central powers like you say in footnote 5.
King Ferdinand was very pro-Entente, and he married a Russian if I remember correctly.
Plus, allying with the cp's is kind of saying that "we don't care about Transylvania anymore". Kinda implausible, since that had been a big point of tension for ages.

Be on the winning side, you might get something after the war. Obviously, being on the losing side is very bad. Staying neutral with everybody on your borders is also risky; winners may still be able to do bad things to you afterwards. The points you mention are far less important than being on the winning side, and while countries are often capable of deluding themselves on that point, apparently the Romania of this timeline wasn't that delusional.
 
Be on the winning side, you might get something after the war. Obviously, being on the losing side is very bad. Staying neutral with everybody on your borders is also risky; winners may still be able to do bad things to you afterwards. The points you mention are far less important than being on the winning side, and while countries are often capable of deluding themselves on that point, apparently the Romania of this timeline wasn't that delusional.

I'd say that's a good summary of King Ferdinand's line of thought. TTL's Romanian government interpreted things like the creation of the Transylvanian Legion as signs that Austria-Hungary might be more flexible in the future.

Although, in fairness to @Oliver Lambkin, he was commenting on just a footnote, as chapter 5 hadn't been posted yet.
 
Politically, the debacle on the Eastern Front had serious consequences for Russia. Grand Duke Nikolai was, not unreasonably, made the scapegoat and sacked. However, this was far from enough. With their inadequacy so painfully shown up, many Russian troops began asking questions. What were they doing in this bloody war, giving their lives for a government that couldn’t even provide them with rifles, rations, or gas masks? Why were they giving their lives to get chased out of village after village which they’d never been to and had no connection with? Why wasn’t the government providing their families back home with enough to live on? When would they stop a bullet or shell like so many of their fallen comrades? And- most important of all- what could they do about it?

Here we go again...Russia just can't catch a break, can it?

Also, loving this timeline. This is an idea I've often wondered about, and I'm pleased to see it being done here so well. Watched :)
 
Wow, thanks! Really nice of you.

And yes, TTL's Russia will be stamped on, kicked around, and generally abused time and time again... but it will always pull itself up again...

:)
 
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