WI: Germany Directly Attacks France (Instead of Invading Through Belgium) in 1914

In 1914, Germany decided to invade France by first passing through Belgium. This decision was made because the Franco-German border was heavily protected, and the Germans felt they would be able to defeat the French more quickly by first attacking Belgium before moving on to France itself. However, this proved to be the casus belli that prompted Britain to join the war on the side of the French.

What if Germany had not invaded Belgium, and instead decided to directly attack France in 1914? Would Britain have stayed neutral in World War I? Would Germany have been more or less successful against France in this scenario?
 
In 1914, Germany decided to invade France by first passing through Belgium. This decision was made because the Franco-German border was heavily protected, and the Germans felt they would be able to defeat the French more quickly by first attacking Belgium before moving on to France itself. However, this proved to be the casus belli that prompted Britain to join the war on the side of the French.

What if Germany had not invaded Belgium, and instead decided to directly attack France in 1914? Would Britain have stayed neutral in World War I? Would Germany have been more or less successful against France in this scenario?
The front was just too narrow, and France would still control the entirety of the industry in the Nord. In addition, Britain would've joined in sooner or later.
Trying to punch through the Vosges in 1914 for the German army is like trying to punch through the fortified sectors of Maginot in 1940. An absolute massacre, because by forcing the French on the defensive they will basically reduce the opportunities for the French to bleed themselves from sheer Elan.
 
Perhaps this could work this way:

Germany attacks west just across to secure the Iron Ore region right near the border, securing the towns of Longwy and Briery.

a) to secure and allow the working of mines right across the border. (German mines are right near the border, you don't want them in a war zone or in artillery range))
b) to prevent the operation of the French mines.
c) As a negotiating point to make up for any French seizure of colonies (Togo etc.)
d) To force a French counterattack.

Then Germany waits on events:
a) French counter attack, Germany repulses the counter attack with heavy losses.
b) The French invade Belgium themselves, Germany counter invades.

If b) above doesn't happen after 1 week, 1st army, and any new reserve divisions start going to the east to beat a Russian invasion.

Use any delay in the British declaration of war to outfit raiders, bring home merchants, send supplies to the colonies, crash import strategic supplies. (Germany expects a British DOW, but it will take at least a few extra days at least in this TL)

Be willing to negotiate any slightly favorable compromise peace. Clearly state your wartime goals to Britain, do well at diplomacy (not a strong point for Germany OTL)


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Germany not attacking Belgium has been debated to death on this forum, but both official German planning (before getting fixated on the Schliefen Plan) and Collective Forum WisdomTM agree that this very much does not entail a large offensive straight on the French border, as that would be the equivalent of repeatedly bashing your head against a granite wall.

OTL Germany had 7 armies in the West: 2 to cover Elsaß-Lothringen, 5 to cram themselves through Belgium & Luxemburgh, leaving just 1 in Ostpreußen to keep the Russians out, under the assumption that they would need several weeks to gather their armies.

The best alternative would be to have a 5/4-3/4 split of armies (no roads or railways to handle more than 3/4 armies near Poland, the French are too strong to leave fewer in the West)

Against France you would see:
- one army standing in reserve while covering the the Belgian & Luxemburghian border in case France tries anything, possibly occupying Luxemburgh (but not Belgium)
- one army in the Elsaß
- one army in Lothringen
- one between the previous 2

A small offensive would take the iron mines of Briey-Longwy and some advantageous defensive terrain near the border, then the Germans dig in and have the French bleed themselves to death against their defences. The 'middle' army would start retreating to entice the French in pursuing them into a gap between the fortified cities of Metz & Straßburg. If it works, which is quite plausible given the French fondness of the attaque à l'outrance, the armies in Lothingren & the Elsaß can then cut of & annihilate 1 or even 2 French armies. Meanwhile, the Germans are essentially conquering Congress Poland in the fall of 1914 instead of the summer of 1915.
 
If I recall correctly, the general sentiment in the British cabinet was against war until the invasion of Belgium, so the delay in British declaration of war could be significant, perhaps even months. Germany could have the opportunity to rapidly defeat Russia and if they hold defensive positions in France (as stated above), bleed France dry into perhaps an early armistice...the question would be at this point....would Britain still get involved or see the writing on the wall and accept a German victory? The possible butterflies are very large...
 
This thread belongs in the "Frequently Asked Questions" forum ;)

In my opinion, the best strategy for Germany was "Defend in the west, attack cautiously in the east," as recommended by Moltke the elder. I recently worked out such an attack in the East in the thread WW1 Aufmarsch II Ost in maps. I made the map below for a similar thread. It shows Plan XVII (OTL) and the Battle of the Frontiers (OTL). The difference with OTL is that Germany does not attack France through Belgium, but defends Alsace-Lorraine with only 4 armies. An important advantage is that the British are kept out of the war.

The 'middle' army would start retreating to entice the French in pursuing them into a gap between the fortified cities of Metz & Straßburg.

I doubt the French would really be so stupid as to march straight on to Saarbrücken with their flanks exposed, allowing them to be surrounded. Anyway, the Western Front will quickly turn into trench warfare and stalemate.

WesternFront.png
 
The French force a bloody stalemate in the West while the Russians are beaten back in the East. Germany advances slowly but cautiously in the East, while keeping little or no forces in the West. The Eastern Front collapses in 1916 with an earlier Menshevik revolution and lack of appetite to continue with the war. In the West, trench warfare continues as neither side can gain an advantage over the other, but the French are facing the rearguard as Germany seeks to knock out and eliminate Russia as a future potential rival. The British would eventually join by the summer of 1915 due to concerns over Ottoman attacks on Egypt and desire to secure Middle Eastern coastal trade routes. This would enable the French to hold on the Western Front once Russia capitulates, although the full might of the German army advancing on France leaves this a tossup. Italy may play a decisive role here, as it would either attack Southern France and divert crucial Allied forces away or it would join the fight and start attacking Austria hungary.
 
I doubt the French would really be so stupid as to march straight on to Saarbrücken with their flanks exposed, allowing them to be surrounded. Anyway, the Western Front will quickly turn into trench warfare and stalemate.

View attachment 619998
While writing my quick reply, I may have forgotten for a minute that France did, indeed, have enough armies to cover the German forces in and South of Strassbourg & in and West of Metz. So yes, a grand encirclement may not be quite that easy to pull off. Still, the equivalent at a divisional/corps level might be somewhat easier to achieve. In the early days of the war, an assault against even a rudimentary field trench defended by 12 MG08/divisional front, with zero support from heavy field artillery (as it does not exist in France, except for what may as well be museum pieces), and with the Soixante-Quinze being rather short on HE in 1914, I can see the French sufficiently weakening themselves for the Germans to achieve a breakthrough in a counter offensive in mid-September or so. Still leaves the French likely digging in around Verdun, Toul & Belfort though....hmmm. So a decent chance of a stalemate, again. Though with a much shorter front this leaves more German forces for Poland, though also letting the French keep the coal of Nord-Pas de Calais & the industry of Lille, which is likely not enough to compensate for the lack of a BEF & RN involvment in the long run.

In conclusion, much better cards for Germany than OTL, though not at all guaranteed to be a winning hand either. Biggest winner: Belgium, as my great-grandfather on my father's side & great-uncle (or thereabouts) on my mother's are spared the experience of being gassed in their trenches & the university of Leuven gets to keep its ancient manuscripts.
 
Ok so could people actually answer the question instead of advocating the east first shite thats been done to death on other threads?

Needless to say a bad idea, the german army would be butting up head first agenst the interly of the French army that can quickly and easily retreat back into the huge defensive line that is on the border. This would probably leave Germany bliding badly whith not much gain, which is why no german general wanted to do it after about 1890.
 
Question, and forgive my ignorance on this, but is there enough infrastructure to support a German advance directly on France even if they breakthrough? Its not a huge frontier, is there enough road and rail in place?
 
The front was just too narrow, and France would still control the entirety of the industry in the Nord. In addition, Britain would've joined in sooner or later.
Trying to punch through the Vosges in 1914 for the German army is like trying to punch through the fortified sectors of Maginot in 1940. An absolute massacre, because by forcing the French on the defensive they will basically reduce the opportunities for the French to bleed themselves from sheer Elan.
Agreed re: an attack through the Vosges... to my knowledge, there's only like 2 really good passes, and either one would be a death defile for a large army...
 
This thread belongs in the "Frequently Asked Questions" forum ;)

In my opinion, the best strategy for Germany was "Defend in the west, attack cautiously in the east," as recommended by Moltke the elder. I recently worked out such an attack in the East in the thread WW1 Aufmarsch II Ost in maps. I made the map below for a similar thread. It shows Plan XVII (OTL) and the Battle of the Frontiers (OTL). The difference with OTL is that Germany does not attack France through Belgium, but defends Alsace-Lorraine with only 4 armies. An important advantage is that the British are kept out of the war.



I doubt the French would really be so stupid as to march straight on to Saarbrücken with their flanks exposed, allowing them to be surrounded. Anyway, the Western Front will quickly turn into trench warfare and stalemate.

View attachment 619998
Yeah, I think the "conventional wisdom" seems to be that, in a defensive scenario, the Germans would attempt to draw the French up between Metz and Strassburg, and the French would be so abysmally stupid as to fall for it, and hope for Elan to make up for their shortcomings....
Me personally though, I'd watch for that left punch coming from Longwy/Briey via Luxembourg...
 
Yeah, I think the "conventional wisdom" seems to be that, in a defensive scenario, the Germans would attempt to draw the French up between Metz and Strassburg, and the French would be so abysmally stupid as to fall for it, and hope for Elan to make up for their shortcomings....
Me personally though, I'd watch for that left punch coming from Longwy/Briey via Luxembourg...
A full Cannae, double envelopment, after the French are 'allowed' to stick their head into the meat grinder that was the area of Lorraine.
Since that was the exact plan of Joffre's Plan XVII,
Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle
 

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Without the Belgian propaganda, I'm not so sure.
I'm pretty sure Britain would have found a reason. They would not willingly accept German hegemony in Europe. It might split the Liberal Party and let in the Conservative & Unionists who pretty much were more in favour of joining the war.
 
I'm pretty sure Britain would have found a reason. They would not willingly accept German hegemony in Europe. It might split the Liberal Party and let in the Conservative & Unionists who pretty much were more in favour of joining the war.
If British entry is delayed till trench warfare starts, would that put them off? If the war looks nasty, bloody and expensive enough then even a "victorious" Germany would be in no state to be a hegemon.

I suppose it might not be as apparent without hindsight.
 
I do love these maps. However I would think that as drawn up leaves the German Lorraine iron ore mines (basically between Diderhofen and the frontier) under fire, occupied, I would think the Germans might want to forward advance in Briery Longwy ahead of a French offensive. (and maybe leave the 5th army west in support / reserve to secure Liege in case the French invade Belgium.

This thread belongs in the "Frequently Asked Questions" forum ;)

In my opinion, the best strategy for Germany was "Defend in the west, attack cautiously in the east," as recommended by Moltke the elder. I recently worked out such an attack in the East in the thread WW1 Aufmarsch II Ost in maps. I made the map below for a similar thread. It shows Plan XVII (OTL) and the Battle of the Frontiers (OTL). The difference with OTL is that Germany does not attack France through Belgium, but defends Alsace-Lorraine with only 4 armies. An important advantage is that the British are kept out of the war.



I doubt the French would really be so stupid as to march straight on to Saarbrücken with their flanks exposed, allowing them to be surrounded. Anyway, the Western Front will quickly turn into trench warfare and stalemate.

View attachment 619998
 
Ok so could people actually answer the question instead of advocating the east first shite thats been done to death on other threads?

Needless to say a bad idea, the german army would be butting up head first agenst the interly of the French army that can quickly and easily retreat back into the huge defensive line that is on the border. This would probably leave Germany bliding badly whith not much gain, which is why no german general wanted to do it after about 1890.
I think you could take Briery and Longwy and maybe Nancy and the mining areas around, but attacking Tours/Epinal/Belfort fortresses head on is not something I see the Germans doing, maybe they could nibble in a OTL Verdun sort of way at these fortresses, its just you can't win before the Russians appear in force in the east, so any offensive has to be about securing a good military/economic/diplomatic position before seeking a victory on other the fronts (Serbia/Russia).

Honestly attacking neither east or west right away is best for Germany, let the French and Russians DOW you, it makes the diplomatic solution easier later. And you can defeat the mobilized Russian armies in defense or on the frontier when they the German frontier in September.
 
I doubt the French would really be so stupid as to march straight on to Saarbrücken with their flanks exposed
Except that's exactly what Joffre planned on doing.
Elan was all that was needed, along with Red Trousers, plus some bayonet waving
 
Except that's exactly what Joffre planned on doing.
Elan was all that was needed, along with Red Trousers, plus some bayonet waving
Also an impulsive desire to prove themselves an active, worthy ally to the Russians, on whose behalf they entered the war in the first place...
 
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