Chapter 9- The Fall of France
Chapter Nine- The Fall of France
"Any unit refusing to fully take part in any attack, advocating peace talks with the enemy, or murdering its officers is to be treated as an enemy, and is to be attacked with all available military might. Furthermore, any soldier found expressing dissatisfaction or a lack of confidence in the war effort is to be reported at once, to prevent his views from spreading. I know that all of you save a small minority are loyal Frenchmen, and I deeply regret having to take this step..."
-
Joseph Joffre's Order of the Day, 21 April 1916.

"The further we penetrated into the enemy's rear... the easier the fighting."
- Diary entry of Erwin Rommel, 1 April 1916, at the Battle of Bardonecchia.

"Germans! After six hundred and sixty days of war, our struggle is at an end. Today, representatives of the French Government signed a document of surrender with representatives of our Empire, bringing an end to the fighting between our two nations as of six AM today. German people, rejoice! I hereby declare that the twenty-third of May shall be celebrated forevermore as a day of celebration of our great victory... "
-
Excerpt from Kaiser Wilhelm II's speech to the crowds in Berlin from a window of the Reichstag, 24 May 1916.


"This is a great day for our beloved nation. Today, we commemorate that triumph of sixty years past. Our achievement in the Erster Weltkrieg was tremendous and hard-fought, and we have worked hard, and paid much blood and sweat since to defend it. But we will never forget the triumph of our ancestors!"
-
German Chancellor Heinz Kissinger, in his televised Victory Day speech, 1976.

The Springtime Mutinies are widely seen as a turning point not just in the history of World War I, but in the history of the world. This was by no means the only possible outcome. Tact and thoughtfulness might’ve enabled the French to salvage something tangible from the wreckage of Verdun, but it was not to be. A combination of bad luck and worse decision-making meant that France went from having a battered army refusing to wipe itself out in the third week of March to having surrendered in the third week of May. This chapter will explore those last two months of the Western Front.

As chronicled in the last chapter, by 23 March the French defenders of Verdun had been worn to the nub. A month of the most intense combat mankind had ever seen, without reprieve, had worn it down. The commander at Verdun, Philippe Petain, had advocated withdrawal, but his superior Joseph Joffre had ordered him to mount a last-ditch offensive. It was from that point that things went sour. Orders went out at approximately 1100 hours on the twenty-fourth to be ready to mount a counteroffensive in eighteen hours. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and when one Major Georges Metinier informed his men, they declared their refusal to go forward. The major, predictably, was angered and threatened to call up military police and have the recalcitrant men arrested for defeatism bordering on mutiny. It was the last mistake he’d ever make. A shot rang out from the French lines, and the major tumbled over dead. His men were reported to have cheered and kicked, stoned, and generally abused the corpse of their former commanding officer. Word travelled quickly that Petain was planning to have them go forward and get killed en masse, and that a little disobedience might be in order. By now, it was well into the afternoon, and word of Major Metinier’s murder had reached Petain. He was livid and ordered MPs in to punish the offending unit. However, the mutineers weren’t stupid. Having killed one of their officers, it made sense that MPs were en route, and they were ready. A platoon of thirty MPs advanced… and walked into gunfire. The mutineers weren’t about to go quietly. At 1600 hours, the captain of the MPs ordered a retreat and informed Petain. The mutineering unit elected to beat an unauthorised retreat to save their own necks and fled south to the town. The general was now at his wits end- the Germans were on the verge of breaking through as it was. He didn’t have any more resources to deal with this rubbish! Petain knew that he would regret it, but he sent Joffre a telegram asking permission to withdraw from Verdun, citing both the German advance and “certain instances of mutinous behaviour in the front lines.” He hoped that his commander would wake up and permit a general retreat. After all, Petain stressed, if the defenders didn’t pull out soon, there would be nothing left to salvage from amongst the great army sent to Verdun. The manpower implications of that would be catastrophic.

Joffre was having none of it. Mutineers, he decreed, should be shot without trial. If that didn’t work, he specifically ordered Petain to use artillery to shell mutinous units. This telegram reached Petain’s HQ at around 1730 hours, just after one which informed him that Fort Bois Bourrus- the centrepiece of the French defences on the west bank of the Meuse- had fallen, and another saying that the Germans were only a kilometre away from the town itself. Petain’s response has not been recorded for posterity, but it was in all likelihood profane and not complimentary towards Joffre. There were absolutely no trustworthy units or MPs to throw at the mutinous units- every man with a gun had been sucked into the battle, trying in vain to plug the gaps created as the defences came undone. Unfortunately, Joffre had very specific instructions as to what to do in that case- to use artillery against mutineers. It wasn’t an order Petain could refuse to obey; mutiny was a crime punishable by death and the French still hadn’t fully run out of shells. Thus, biting his lip, his conscience panging, Petain contacted the artillery batteries at 2000 hours, issuing them with their orders. It’s a mark of how the French position had deteriorated that these artillery batteries were located inside Verdun itself. But Petain was out of luck. The gunners hadn’t had an easy time of it- they had gone through hell just like everyone else. Their sympathies were with their mutinous countrymen, and they weren’t going to kill them. They made it very plain that they would be more than happy to pull the lanyard against the Boches, but that if Petain wanted someone to kill patriotic French troops, he could find himself another artillery battery. (1) Now, Petain had really had it, and a few minutes before eleven, he sent a runner to the mutineers, who had attracted more men to their cause throughout the day. What would their terms be?

It was far too late for such measures. Although dusk had brought a halt to the German advance, it was all too clear that Verdun would not hold. If the Germans didn’t capture the town the next day, on the 25th, it would only be because they hadn’t driven the French from its ruins. As a matter of fact, Verdun fell the next day. At ten AM on the twenty-fifth of March 1916, the Imperial German 39th Infantry Division marched into the sleepy French town, finding it deserted, as everything important had already been evacuated. The Germans spent the rest of the day advancing on the west bank of the Meuse and moving forces into the newly conquered town, while making plans for an advance deeper into France on the 26th. At noon, they forced the mayor of the town, at bayonet point, to run up the Imperial German flag in front of the town hall, before being taken into custody. Having achieved victory, the Kaiser’s armies paused to digest their accomplishment. Their own casualties had not been light; almost 175,000 Germans had been killed or wounded. Verdun, for which some 255,000 (2) Frenchmen had been killed or wounded, was lost. France’s greatest battle had been a failure. There was nothing more to be said.

Once it became clear that he could not suppress the mutinies in time for the defences of Verdun to hold, Philippe Petain got out, fast. The French commander fled to Valmy and set up his headquarters there. No sooner had he settled in than he got the dreadful news. He is said to have replied, “Then it is all over. Two million of France’s sons have died for nothing. Joffre will have my neck… and the Kaiser will have Joffre’s.” Legend has it that the defeated French commander broke down and cried at his desk; others suggest that he pointed a pistol at himself and contemplated doing himself in. We shall never know, but both seem reasonable. His career was over (3) He was right on one point- Joffre would have his neck. Six hours after the German flag was run up over Verdun, messengers arrived at Valmy stripping Joffre of his command. He was transferred back to Paris effective immediately. On the 27th, Joffre himself arrived at Valmy and took personal command of the Verdun theatre- if that wasn’t a tragic misnomer by now. Military historians and the general public would remember him not as the man who undid his predecessor’s blunders, but as the man who doubled down on them.

Like Petain, Erich von Falkenhayn had spent the past few days living at his desk, awaiting the next click of the telegraph receiver or ring of the telephone, staring at maps while downing cup after cup of coffee and occasionally having a bite to eat. In his memoirs, the German general freely reveals that those three days had been the most stressful of his career. “If something had gone wrong then”, he wrote, “I would have been done for. But more importantly, the Fatherland would have no place to go. The path forward for our millions of young men would have been treacherous.” It was a great relief, to say the least, when the telephone rang just after lunch on the 25th. The news was the best possible- the fabled city now flew the German tricolour. Falkenhayn is said to have responded by promoting the telephone operator on the spot, before sharing a bottle of champagne with his colleagues. More soberly, a month of intense combat had bled the French dry. The 255,000 lost men would prove very hard to replace, especially given the demands of the Italian front- a front on which the Central Powers were making progress.

The Battle of Bardonecchia had thus far been classic Italian front- Cadorna’s exhortations to bravery and confident anticipation of a breakthrough had gone ignored as French machine-gunners mowed down their Italian foes. Despite fighting with one hand tied behind their back, the French had just held the line, and the Italians hadn’t gained more than a few hundred yards. Now, that was about to change. In the summer of 1916, as chronicled in chapter 2, the Germans had sent an elite unit known as the Alpenkorps to the Italian front- as the name suggests, it was a unit trained in mountainous warfare. The Alpenkorps had largely remained unbloodied, its commanders not wanting to waste trained men and specialised equipment in Cadorna’s latest breakthrough mirage. Now, though, with the French cracking in the north, the Germans threw themselves into Bardonecchia. General Oskar von Hutier, commander of the Alpenkorps, utilised freshly devised tactics to maximise his contribution. On 1 April, following an intense four-hour barrage which left the French rattled, the Germans went into the field. While their Italian allies continued the same piecemeal attacks which they’d used for a month, von Hutier’s men struck like the thrust of a rapier, hard and fast towards the French rear. Hutier’s men left exposed flanks and French strongpoints to the Italian cannon-fodder to mop up. They broke through within a day, and the thinly stretched French line crumbled as troops were moved to plug the gap… which finally opened the creaking floodgates, and Cadorna’s men jubilantly poured through. Logistics and walking speed were their only limiting factors, while panic-stricken French troops often refrained from firing Parthian shots in an attempt to get away quicker. There were cases of officers shooting or firing artillery at fleeing men… such officers rarely lasted very long. In the first ten days of April, the unthinkable happened- the Italo-Germans advanced almost a hundred miles. By the eleventh, the stunned French had retreated to the mountains in front of Grenoble. Considering the situation on the German front, there was no prospect of sending reinforcements down, and Joffre sacked the general commanding the Italian front. His replacement was Franchet d’Esperey- who would subsequently become known as “Desperate Frankie” for his panic-stricken, ineffectual response to the disaster on his front. As d’Esperey prepared to defend Grenoble, the worst possible thing happened- his men, like those at Verdun, threw down their arms. Enough, they declared, was enough.

Oskar von Hutier, the German hero who broke through at Bardonecchia. His postwar career would take him far...
General_von_hutier.jpg


The trouble dates back to Joseph Joffre’s response to the Verdun Mutinies. Although in the chaos of retreat from the meat-grinder, there was no way to tell who had done what during the mutinies, Joffre was determined to find out once he arrived at Valmy. Tribunals and courts-martial were established, with every unit’s members being grilled over about their conduct and the conduct of their comrades by military policemen. All this naturally wasted a great deal of manpower and man hours, and there were more than a few cases of soldiers literally being pulled off of machine-gun duty to be interrogated in the weeks after the retreat from Verdun. Forcing soldiers to recount everything their comrades had done, often in exhausting detail, demoralised them and kept them out of the trenches for long stretches, as well as severely damaging relations between individual soldiers. The executions of supposed mutineers didn’t much help France’s manpower troubles, either. The soldiers also unfairly blamed Joffre for the poor quality of rations, very infrequent leave, and general misery of trench life. All this to say, by the middle of April, French morale was shot. When rumours began swirling that d’Esperey was planning to go down swinging and launch a fresh offensive out of Grenoble, the men under his command refused. This time, the fire of mutiny spread. Troops all along the Italian front demanded peace, murdering their officers and in some cases, threatening mass desertion. There were clashes in Nice on the seventeenth (which, owing to its proximity to the front, was under martial law), when a food riot broke out and some soldiers sided with the rioters; fifty people were killed before order was restored. In Grenoble, a disaffected corporal tried unsuccessfully to assassinate d’Esperey. Nor was the rot limited to the Italian front. On the twentieth of April, the crew of the cruiser Edgar Quinet, sick and tired of being trapped in a seemingly endless patrol duty, their rations shrinking, and with little concrete knowledge but a dreadful sense that la patrie was in danger, mutinied, killing their captain. They sailed into Barcelona harbour and scuttled the ship in front of the horrified Spaniards, content to spend the rest of the war in Spanish internment. (4) On the Western Front, desertion rates massively increased, and many units declared their refusal to participate in any offensives. For an increasingly paranoid Joseph Joffre, all this proved his point: the military was infiltrated with enemy agents working to undermine the war. In his diary, the French commander-in-chief mused that had infiltrators not stabbed France in the back, Verdun would’ve held. (5) Thus, on 21 April 1916, he issued his infamous Order of the Day: Any unit refusing to fully take part in any attack, advocating peace talks with the enemy, or murdering its officers is to be treated as an enemy, and is to be attacked with all available military might. Just as France’s two fronts were disintegrating, its manpower bled well past the danger point, and a de facto purge environment was being established in the remaining units, Frenchmen were ordered to kill other Frenchmen. Genius.

The result was predictable. While some French units did in fact attack their mutinous counterparts (including one clash just south of Valmy), the mutinies only snowballed. By the start of May, approximately 65% of France’s army was held to be “unreliable”. The British, meanwhile, were deeply embarrassed by their ally’s behaviour, and some in London advocated pulling the BEF out, so that no more British lives would be lost in this foolishness. Finally, on 2 May, the inevitable happened. Erich von Falkenhayn had one more punch to throw at the crumbling French Army. He aimed his latest offensive at Amiens, another major city which had thus far escaped capture. Two things recommended Amiens: it was a long way from Verdun, so the French would not likely be expecting an attack, and the mutinies had been particularly fierce in that area. Oskar von Hutier, hero of Bardonecchia, was transferred to the Western Front and collaborated with Falkenhayn in drawing up the attack plans. Fresh divisions arrived from the Balkans, including several Austro-Hungarian ones- marking their first appearance on the Western Front, and at 3 AM on the 2nd, a hurricane barrage on loyalist units heralded the start of the Kaiserschlacht.

The Kaiser’s Battle, as it came to be known, followed a similar tactical plan to Bardonecchia. Certain skilled, veteran German units who had received crash courses in what were being dubbed “Hutier tactics” were given orders to prioritise speed and movement, although naturally they were not as effective as the Alpenkorps. The Kaiserschlacht’s armies moved like a knife slicing butter. French troops- even the “loyalists”- were all too happy to throw up their hands and sit out the rest of the war in a PoW camp, while mutinous units frequently defected en masse, apparently not troubled by feelings of guilt or a lack of patriotism. Some French troops attacked those retreating (6), while others put aside their differences in the last battle, but it all made little difference. The Germans occupied Amiens relatively easily on the sixth- making the Kaiserschlacht the quickest offensive in the First World War.

A (badly made) map roughly showing the situation on the Western Front at the end of May 1916.
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The fall of Amiens spelled doom for Aristide Briand’s government. A vote of no confidence occurred two days after the city’s fall, with one minister declaring that “if that man remains leader, we in this very chamber will hear the rattle of guns outside our offices before the leaves fall from the trees!” Briand’s failure to win the war, his unconditional acceptance of Joseph Joffre’s handling of the mutinies, and the declining economic conditions within France all combined to show him the door. In his stead, Joseph Caillaux was given the top job. Caillaux- and his Radical Socialist Party- was known for his support of an end to the war. His acceptance speech was noticeably grim, with some newspapers reporting that he wept while delivering it. After a frugal lunch and attending an afternoon Mass, France’s new Prime Minister telephoned Joffre, informing him that he was sacked. The rest of the day, and the day after that, was spent with his cabinet, figuring out how to approach the Germans for a cease-fire. Caillaux wanted to ask openly and publicly, so as to hopefully quell the mutineers by giving into one of their key demands- there had been reports that they had reacted favourably to the news of his ascension, and he wanted to encourage them. However, his advisers persuaded him otherwise. If the Germans proposed unacceptable terms, a secret approach would allow the French to back away without losing face. Technically, they pointed out, to ask for peace without consulting Britain and Russia violated multiple agreements, something which Caillaux was forced to ignore- with France in the state it was, if London and Petrograd hadn’t seen which way the wind was blowing, they were fools. Besides, the cautious ministers added, asking too openly might invite an assassination attempt- in France in the spring of 1916, expecting the unexpected seemed prudent. Sighing, Caillaux agreed to a secretive approach to the armistice, not knowing what seeds of trouble he was sowing for the future…

On 14 May, French diplomats Francois Georges-Picot and Paul Cambon boarded a cross-Channel ferry along with two secretaries. From Portsmouth, they travelled by rail- innocuously enough, second class- to Hull. They stayed the night and boarded a ship bound for neutral Denmark. Owing to the British blockade, crossing the North Sea took an entire week, during which Picot and Cambon prepared themselves for the meeting ahead. When they disembarked at the neutral Danish town of Esbjerg on the 21st, they went straight to the town hall. The four-man German delegation was already there: Matthias Erzberger, a foreign ministry official by the name of Count Alfred von Oberndorff, Major General Detlof von Winterfeld, representing the army, and Captain Ernst Vaslow, representing the navy.

The Armistice which ended the Franco-German war amounted to little more than a French unconditional surrender. Over two days, the German delegates imposed the crushing terms they’d been sent from Berlin to procure, and the French tried in vain to stop them. A nominal Danish delegation was present to act as mediators, but they did little more than nudge the French and “encourage” them to accept Germany’s terms. The fact was that with much of her heartland under occupation, her army in revolt, and her politics less than stable, France held no cards. Two days later, at six PM on 23 May 1916, the Armistice was signed. The key points were:

  • All fighting between French and German troops is to cease within twelve hours. Any French unit which ignores this order, whether or not it is in a state of mutiny, will face combat from German forces.
  • The German Army will remain occupying the territory it now holds.
  • France is to pay for the occupation of said territory until the conclusion of a peace treaty; this will be applied retroactively to 2 August 1914.
  • 5,000 artillery pieces, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 aircraft (including all night bombers), 5,000 railway locomotives, 150,000 railway carriages and 5,000 road trucks are to be ceded to Germany. German officers will have the right to cross the lines to ensure that the handovers are completed.
  • All French minefields are to be identified and destroyed at French expense. German officers shall have the right to oversee these operations.
  • All French forces are to vacate German colonies.
  • All French ships in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are to put into German or Italian ports to surrender prior to 1 June 1916.
  • All German prisoners-of-war are to be handed over within 30 days. German doctors are to be admitted to French military hospitals to assess German troops too badly wounded to be moved; these doctors shall hold decision-making authority in these cases.
A secret clause of the Armistice not published forced the French to commit to "aiding" the Germans in evicting the British Expeditionary Force from their soil, should Berlin demand it.

Given the lateness of the hour and secretive nature of the armistice, few knew what had happened on the 23rd. For the German people, 23 May was just another weary day, while some 1,200 German soldiers died on the 23rd, eight hundred of them within the twelve-hour period before fighting was to cease. Newspaper editors were the first to find out, with the result that few got much sleep on the night of May 23-24. Naturally, they celebrated and told their families, so sunup on the 24th brought rumours that the war was over. There was some confusion- had France surrendered? What about Britain, Russia, etc?- but the Kaiser's speech settled all questions. At nine AM, following a brief introduction by left-wing politician Phillipp Schiedemann, he addressed a massive crowd from the window of the Reichstag. Mass celebration all across the German Empire followed, with parades in every town. The Kaiser declared a school closure and bank holiday, while the hungry populace broke out their best clothes and celebrated as best they could on empty stomachs. Even today, Germans recognise 24 May as Tag des Sieges (Victory Day), a day of celebration and merriment. (In Italy, the analogous Giorno della Vittoria is the 25th, the day Grenoble fell; a Franco-Italian armistice was delayed for two more days). 128-point type blanketed the front of every German newspaper, triumphantly announcing “peace!”

Phillip Schiedemann speaks to the crowd to introduce Kaiser Wilhelm II's speech.
Phillip Schiedemann.jpg


Picot and Cambon, meanwhile, were subject to one more humiliation from their enemies. The Germans took them back to Paris under armed guard in a private train, but one which stopped in all the major cities of western Germany, as well as in Brussels and Reims. The two unfortunate Frenchmen were subject to a tremendous deal of gloating (and more than a few rotten vegetables and eggs; one housewife in Cologne ruined a suit of Picot’s), and then were forced to see the crestfallen looks of not just the Belgians, but their own countrymen, condemned to occupation by the Boche for who-knew-how-long. In his diary, Cambone contemplated suicide; he used the word twenty times over a nine-day stretch, and would in fact hang himself in 1920. Being passed through the lines was a torture all its own. While the armed guards prevented physical harm from coming to the two Frenchmen, they did nothing about jeers, rude gestures, and a general sense of smug cockiness. After two years of fighting, the Germans had won, and they were going to make the most of it. The reaction from the French troops was in some ways worse. These men had given their all for two years and gone through hell, and it was all for nothing? All that fighting, gore, loneliness, and death, just to watch two sad men in suits being escorted by the enemy back to Paris after admitting defeat? Few could look Picot or Cambone in the eye. Like many civilians on their first visit to the front, the two diplomats were no doubt stunned by the torn-up nature of the landscape, the stenches of cordite, shit, sweat and death. But most of all, the impact of seeing the way men had gone through the meat grinder must’ve stayed with these poor, sorry diplomats for the rest of their days. The “thousand-yard-stare” of a man reliving a traumatic scene over and over in his mind could not have been easy for these polished diplomats to forget. But it was the face of a soldier who had given his all but failed. It was the face of confusion, of frustration, of not understanding why you couldn’t defend your homeland. It was the face of the French experience in the First World War.

Comments?



  1. Or he could cross the lines and talk to Falkenhayn…
  2. IOTL, approximately 400,000 French casualties were incurred between February and December. Here, the battle only lasts a month, but the French troops are worked harder, so losses per capita are higher overall.
  3. At least, he thinks so. Hint: we will be hearing from Petain again before too long…
  4. Incidentally, they were later repatriated by Spain after the war, and unsurprisingly faced a court-martial; eleven were sentenced to death, the rest given dishonourable discharges and imprisoned.
  5. In this, his subordinate-turned-foe Petain and he will have quite a lot in common. More than that, I won’t say…
  6. Imagine the famous picture of a Russian soldier turning on his retreating comrade, but with French uniforms.
 

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Geon

Donor
So, now instead of the Germans it's the French who have the stab-in-the-back theory regarding the war's end. That will go over well in a few decades I'm sure:mad:!

And given everything they've been through I can imagine how the Belgians will feel about their former "allies?"
 
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So, now instead of the Germans it's the French who have the stab-in-the-back theory regarding the war's end. That will go over well in a few decades I'm sure:mad:!

And given everything they've been through I can imagine how the Belgians will feel about their former "allies?"

Right now, French politics is a huge mess. There are those such as Joffre who're yelling stabbed in the back (both by the mutineers and the Italians), centrists and liberals such as Calliaux who're just trying to keep a lid on things, ex-soldier's groups on all sides of the spectrum, and lots of angry housewives who're fed up with the government. The conditions are ripe for chaos...

I can reveal that the peace treaty will move Belgium to the west (giving it parts of French Flanders while stripping it of its eastern territories), and the new kingdom will remain a German puppet. As for the Belgian people, some say "the French just tried their best and couldn't make it work", while others are furious towards Paris for failing.

Well then. That was a war on the Western front. What have your thoughts been about the actual peace treaty between France and Germany?

I've got the peace treaty all planned out. It won't be pleasant for France, that's for sure.

Interesting revelation--and implies that Germany wins WWII as well (against who, we'll have to wait and see)


Is that who I think it is?

Yes, there will be a second World War (although the composition will hopefully surprise you!).
Heinz Alfred Kissinger? A maverick, conservative chancellor in Germany during the latter years of the Wilhelm IV era, and the only Bavarian Jew to reach such a high national office. More than that, well, you'll see when we reach TTL's 1970s....
;)
 
Wow, that was more glorious/disastrous than I imagined. Can't really help it but, well done Germany. That was a masterstroke. The peace should be interesting because, for all intents and purposes, it was a total victory for them. No white peace or compromise, Germany outright defeated them
 
Well, this entire war really blew up on the Entente's face. France is out of the picture for at least 2 decades, Russia is falling apart in the background, Italy gained a ton of French land, and Britain is essentially on their own now. Even Belgium, the reason Britain joined the Weltkrieg to begin with, will be sliced apart by German whims.

Even though the US isn't directly in the war, they did lend an awful lot of money to the Entente so I wonder when they will see their investments returned to them? (if ever?)
 
Wow, that was more glorious/disastrous than I imagined. Can't really help it but, well done Germany. That was a masterstroke. The peace should be interesting because, for all intents and purposes, it was a total victory for them. No white peace or compromise, Germany outright defeated them

Yup. Von Falkenhayn will be remembered as a great German hero forever, KWII will be remembered similar to how a lot of OTL Americans view FDR... and I have plans for Oskar von Hutier. France and Russia got their teeth kicked in, all right.

A propaganda victory at sea will probably force the British to go for a Status quo ante peace, so now they can concentrate completely on Russia

The UK will lose a little land, but the peace will be very moderate. The UK-German peace, as well as the latter half of the naval war, will be covered in more detail next update!

Well, this entire war really blew up on the Entente's face. France is out of the picture for at least 2 decades, Russia is falling apart in the background, Italy gained a ton of French land, and Britain is essentially on their own now. Even Belgium, the reason Britain joined the Weltkrieg to begin with, will be sliced apart by German whims.

Even though the US isn't directly in the war, they did lend an awful lot of money to the Entente so I wonder when they will see their investments returned to them? (if ever?)

French military might will not recover until the 1940s... and Germany won't be the sole cause of their problems, either. Russia has some turbulent times ahead, while Italy is about to get rich, fat, and happy. As for Britain, I'm planning a quasi-return to isolationism for them in the '20s and '30s, as economic problems and a recognition of the new status quo make them look inward... it won't be pretty...

American banks are currently sweating, as they've just thrown away a tonne of money. An alt-Great Depression is en route, and I have some (hopefully) fun plans for the 1916 election and politics beyond!

As always, appreciate the interest!
 
I'm most interested in learning what happens to Russia. Czar Nicholas II is still around. Very few timelines discuss a possibility of the Russian Empire losing WWI but still surviving to see the post-war world.
 
Well, you're in luck. The Tsarist regime will be surviving for a while longer (although it'll be in for a rough patch).
The Central Powers should push for as much independent regions as possible, but a peace in late 1916 may allow the Tsarists enough time to squash the communists if they ally with the Kerensky faction, which hasn't fucked itself yet
 
Yup. Von Falkenhayn will be remembered as a great German hero forever, KWII will be remembered similar to how a lot of OTL Americans view FDR... and I have plans for Oskar von Hutier. France and Russia got their teeth kicked in, all right.



The UK will lose a little land, but the peace will be very moderate. The UK-German peace, as well as the latter half of the naval war, will be covered in more detail next update!



French military might will not recover until the 1940s... and Germany won't be the sole cause of their problems, either. Russia has some turbulent times ahead, while Italy is about to get rich, fat, and happy. As for Britain, I'm planning a quasi-return to isolationism for them in the '20s and '30s, as economic problems and a recognition of the new status quo make them look inward... it won't be pretty...

American banks are currently sweating, as they've just thrown away a tonne of money. An alt-Great Depression is en route, and I have some (hopefully) fun plans for the 1916 election and politics beyond!

As always, appreciate the interest!
I don't think American banks are sweating to badly, all loans until mid 1917 were backed whith capital in the United States, if the aliases no long pay then they get there money back from now owning a bunch more American business that used to be owned by Britain and france.
Thats another way to get a central powers victory, us banks refused to continue loaning to the alise whithout being backed by capital which they ran out of in April 1917 and only continued when the us government passed a law backing the loans whith us tax dollars. Which would never have passed if the us wasn't an active participant on the alise side.
 
I somehow get the feeling that the idea of French: Dunkirk; Nanzig; Belfort; Longwy Briey Etc... Won't really be a thing in this TL. Meuse and Moselle seem like they may be the "natural" frontiers of Imperial Germany.

They could even take places like St Pierre and Miquelon to the give to Britain as sop in a peace deal.
 
Minor retcon- added this:

A secret clause of the Armistice not published forced the French to commit to "aiding" the Germans in evicting the British Expeditionary Force from their soil, should Berlin demand it.

to chapter 9. It will become important in chapter 10.
 
I'm most interested in learning what happens to Russia. Czar Nicholas II is still around. Very few timelines discuss a possibility of the Russian Empire losing WWI but still surviving to see the post-war world.
That's because well, it's hard to.

Like it or not, Nicky came pretty close when he lost the Russo-Japanese war. And that was nothing compared to the kind of drubbing that losing WW1 would ensue. He'd be lucky to last a week.
 
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