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"lions Led By Donkeys" - Topic Close To Billb's Heart


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#21 Tony Evans

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0606 AM

And look what happened when they joined the Germans in bombing Pearl Harbor! :D

 

Nothing is over until we decide it is!


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#22 BillB

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0607 AM

 

I'm rather more interested in overturning the Blackadder narrative rather than in the details of the current political spin.

 

It is easy for the war poets, sat on the front line and seeing people die horribly to be critical. And it is a soldier's lot to believe that everything asked of him is stupid.

 

The important point is that there were reasons for the war being conducted as it was, and whilst saying they were "valid" might be a stretch, they were certainly not entered into with a complete disregard for the human costs - but those costs were considered necessary.

 

I am also at a loss to understand how you can consider the "only mistakes" being to pick bad allies and to invade Belgium. What just cause did Germany have for invading anyone?

When Russia mobilised against Austria, what option did they have? Yes we can say 'Germany should not have been aggressive'. But in reality were they? It only started from supporting an Ally with some not entirely unreasonable demands. Even Britain thought those demands were reasonable, contrary to later myth making that suggested the demands were the toughest on record. Looked at from the German perspective, if you were going to fight a war on 2 (more than 2 actually) fronts, then the only alternative  was to take one enemy out first. And it was from that view logical to take out the most fearsome enemy,  France, first.

Was Germany in the moral right to invade France? No of course not. Did it have an alternative at that point faced by the alliance system that was lined up against it? Short of stopping Austro Hungary going to war probably not, but who could have predicted the results THAT would have. Even that action only became critical when Russia decided to (over)react to it.

 

There was an interesting lecture on over Christmas on the Parliamentary Channel  featuring an apparently eminent British historian (whom im ashamed I can remember the name) who suggested that Asquith was sympathetic to Germany's fear of encirclement, and that Britain was actually drawing away from France in the months before war (which explains perhaps British reluctance to commit troops to defend France). Which highlights Germanys real mistake, invading Belgium inevitably would drag Britain into the war and could actually have been avoided, whereas war with France (as in 1870) would not. So we should be more concerned over the infringement of Belgian neutrality, rather than the invasion of France. From a moral point of view it may be indefensible and I wouldnt try, but that's not the same as saying it was cold practical sense. After all, it WAS Frances choice to ally with Russia, a country lead by one of the last absolute monarchs in the world, and a man with all the intellectual capacity of pickled herring.

 

The main criticism you can level at Germany is they over reacted. But that's exactly the same as you could say about Russia, and few if anyone levels that charge at them, largely because it implies Britain and France were unwise to support them in the years leading up to war.

 

Good came from the war, primarily the removal of the Kaiser and the introduction of Democratic Governance to the German Empire, albeit briefly. Looked at like that we can hardly claim it was a waste. But that's not the same as saying the cause of the war clear cut and honourable. Britain had the cleanest hands of all in standing up for Belgium, but we surely have to expect some of the blame for the multiple pileup that was world war 1 by allying with an ally (Russia) that was just as aggressive as we accused Germany of being, and thereby emboldened it. Indeed, perhaps it was a suspicion that Russia was not a safe pair of hands that lead us to slowly draw away from the Entente in the months leading up to war?

 

 

Bill, Ill address your points later, I hope you can forgive me for being tardy I REALLY ought to start doing some work this morning. :)

 

Ref the last bit, that makes two of us.  :(

 

Ref the rest & regarding German aggression being no worse that anyone elses, how many of the Great Powers planning subordinated diplomacy and a legally binding treaty to military pragmatism and deliberately factored in the violation of a neutral state's integrity as the first step in its strategy? And how many inextricably linked mobilisation and attack?     :)

 

BillB

 

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#23 BillB

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0609 AM

Well, it could be said that the Treaties of Trianon and Saint-Germain were beastly enough to Hungary and Austria.

Indeed, but I don't think the label Hun was attached to Hungary and Austria either.  :)

 

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#24 Ken Estes

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0727 AM

Given the German plans for 1917, I don't think any negotiated peace would have been found agreeable. Once Brest-Litovsk is signed in 1918, there will be no agreed peace with restoration of pre-war frontiers, either.

 

Bill, the shining example of militarism is the Dual Alliance, but Sazanov knew that their mobilization meant war. A partial mobilization in just the southern districts might have meant containing the conflict to Serbia, but the Tsar's military advisors would not take that risk. Of course, risk was in everybody's mind and none seemed bearable.

 

DB, the only German war plan active is a modified Schlieffen Plan. War with anybody means attacking France, through Belgium. This is what is meant by militarism. William actually faltered at one point in his mobilization and asked if they could only move against Russia. The GS said it was not possible, but Gen Groener, who headed the RR office of the GS in 1914, wrote postwar that they could have done it. There are more mistakes.


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#25 Yama

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0803 AM

Major problem of military history of Western Front, or WW1 in general, is that English-speaking world concentrates only on British war literature: what the Germans and French have written about the war is almost entirely untranslated and almost all casual - and many serious - history buffs are completely ignorant about them. And if their conclusions are mentioned somewhere, they tend to be ignored or discredited because of their 'foreigness', apparently only British military historians can be unbiased and neutral. For example, very extensive Wikipedia article about Battle of Somme contains 32 references from English-speaking world, zero from elsewhere.
If someone today would write a history on WW2 Eastern Front based only on German sources, he would be laughed off the stage. Yet for some reason, WW1 history runs around in circles recycling same primary sources, arguments and viewpoints, all of which are British.
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#26 BansheeOne

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 0851 AM

On 21 March 1918, General Sir Julian Byng and General Sir Hubert Gough were attacked by 50 identified German divisions on that single day.

 

By God, those two guys fought off 50 divisions all by themselves? I'd say that puts all those contentions about chateau generalship to rest! Who needs a dirty mass of soldiers when you can just send a couple of plucky generals to win the war for you?

 

I don't really see why the protagonists would have wanted to negotiate on that basis in 1917 any more than they did for real, and IMO it was that line of thinking as pushed by Wilson that actually caused Europe a lot of anguish 1920-1989. The reason Round 2 came in 1939 was not because the Allies were beastly to the Hun, it was because US idealistic interference prevented the Allies from being beastly enough to the Hun by preventing the conflict from reaching its proper conclusion as it did in 1945. As we've seen in numerous places across the globe since 1945, half-measures and wishful thinking merely allow bad situations to drag on and store up trouble for the future, and I'd argue that Wilson's involvement in the "ending" of the First World War was the beginning of that tendency.

 

Frankly, this always strikes me as the equivalent to the modern American whining of "we could have won Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan if we only had taken the gloves off" - except that British politics seem to have a propensity for losing the peace after winning the preceding war, and entirely by their own domestic decisions. I don't see much that was foregone in the armistice and Treaty of Versailles, least of all at Wilson's insistence, other than maybe the French intention to move their border to the Rhine or else create a buffer state there (which they tried anyway). And the most far-reaching French plans were opposed by the UK as much as the US due to the British desire of avoiding a power vacuum in Central Europe with revolutionary Russia to the East.

 

Moreover, there was not much that could have been realistically achieved over what happened anyway. Germany could have been totally demilitarized, but that would not only have gone against the British strategy, but under the treaty provisions it shouldn't have been a credible threat to anybody as it was. It could have been hit with even more reparations, but it couldn't pay them as it was, and again it was the UK along with the US, long after Wilson, who pushed France into eventually having payments cancelled. It couldn't be forced to install a new system of government as after 1945, because it had already done that by itself.

 

Arguably the armistice in France between nominally unbeaten armies was fatal in that it allowed the creation of the dagger stab myth, but even there I can't see what continued fighting would have achieved over the eventual treaty regulations in practice - it would have been a case of "we won't allow you to sue for unconditional peace until you accept unconditional peace!"; and let's face it, after four years of slaughter nobody would have relished the perspective to fight all the way into a country that was already erupting into revolutionary fervor.

 

I guess Germany could have been occupied beyond the Rhineland to drive the message home like in 1945, and maybe split up like Austria-Hungary; but again, that was close to happening anyway with separatism in the Rhineland, Bavaria, Thuringia plus the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Eastern territories. Unlike in the Austrian empire, nationalism worked for rather than against unity though, so the division would have to be enforced. That would need a post-1945 mindset of sustained continental engagement to be retconned in that was just not there in British post-1918 politics as far as I can see (in fact the traditional strategy of using continental nations as balancing blocks was pretty much diametrically opposed to it).

 

Unfortunately once you allow WW I to happen (which looks pretty inevitable by itself within a few years of the original timeframe given the alliances and the way everybody on the continent was spoiling for a fight over perceived past injuries), I think WW II is an almost inescapable result. What distinguished the outcome of the latter from the former more than anything else was the almost unequivocal acceptance of responsibility by both winners and losers - there was little denying that Germany had started that one, and the Allies realized they had to stay put. Notably, while they bit the sour apple of continued engagement, success arose with a more lenient regime than the hardline approach foreseen by the Morgenthau Plan and similar.


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#27 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1109 AM

Major problem of military history of Western Front, or WW1 in general, is that English-speaking world concentrates only on British war literature: what the Germans and French have written about the war is almost entirely untranslated and almost all casual - and many serious - history buffs are completely ignorant about them. And if their conclusions are mentioned somewhere, they tend to be ignored or discredited because of their 'foreigness', apparently only British military historians can be unbiased and neutral. For example, very extensive Wikipedia article about Battle of Somme contains 32 references from English-speaking world, zero from elsewhere.If someone today would write a history on WW2 Eastern Front based only on German sources, he would be laughed off the stage. Yet for some reason, WW1 history runs around in circles recycling same primary sources, arguments and viewpoints, all of which are British.


WWI plays a huge part in the French collective memory and it isn't a happy memory.
As for Germany, most high school students in English speaking countries will at some stage study the war poetry of Sassoon and Owen at the same time reading All Quiet on the Western Front - written by a German soldier about the German side.

Find one movie from either country about WWI that isn't about poor soldiers in the mud, the victims of chateau generalship.

Using Wikipedia English as a source for lack of non-English sourcing is like using Wikipedia Russia for an article on the T72 and complaining for a lack of English sources.
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#28 Yama

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1114 AM

Using Wikipedia English as a source for lack of non-English sourcing is like using Wikipedia Russia for an article on the T72 and complaining for a lack of English sources.


No need to complain, that article does have English sources.
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#29 BillB

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1231 PM

Given the German plans for 1917, I don't think any negotiated peace would have been found agreeable. Once Brest-Litovsk is signed in 1918, there will be no agreed peace with restoration of pre-war frontiers, either.

 

Bill, the shining example of militarism is the Dual Alliance, but Sazanov knew that their mobilization meant war. A partial mobilization in just the southern districts might have meant containing the conflict to Serbia, but the Tsar's military advisors would not take that risk. Of course, risk was in everybody's mind and none seemed bearable.

 

DB, the only German war plan active is a modified Schlieffen Plan. War with anybody means attacking France, through Belgium. This is what is meant by militarism. William actually faltered at one point in his mobilization and asked if they could only move against Russia. The GS said it was not possible, but Gen Groener, who headed the RR office of the GS in 1914, wrote postwar that they could have done it. There are more mistakes.

Yes Ken, but the Russ had the option of waiting for developments after partial or full mobilisation (at least until logistics & disease rendered it unsound)  whereas the Germans did not, as you point out in the last para. IIRC Groener meant that it was technically possible to stop the attack into Belgium but doing so with virtually all the German Army either on trains or enroute to/from railheads as per the Schlieffen Plan would have left Germany pretty much helpless in the face of attack. I can therefore see why the German GS referred to stopping short as being impossible; as you say risk was in everybody's mind and what can be seen as a mistake in hindsight may not have been quite so apparent under the conditions prevailing at the time.

 

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#30 glenn239

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1304 PM

Yes Ken, but the Russ had the option of waiting for developments after partial or full mobilisation (at least until logistics & disease rendered it unsound)  whereas the Germans did not, as you point out in the last para. IIRC Groener meant that it was technically possible to stop the attack into Belgium but doing so with virtually all the German Army either on trains or enroute to/from railheads as per the Schlieffen Plan would have left Germany pretty much helpless in the face of attack. I can therefore see why the German GS referred to stopping short as being impossible; as you say risk was in everybody's mind and what can be seen as a mistake in hindsight may not have been quite so apparent under the conditions prevailing at the time.

 

BillB 

 

 

The Russians theoretically had the option to hold in place, but as their mobilization had originally been called to the defence of Serbia, at the moment the Austrian army crossed the Serbian frontier around mid-August, the Russian army would either have to advance into Galicia immediately thereafter or Russia would face a humiliating stand-down.  From the German perspective, having called their own mobilization to pursue war with Serbia, the Austrians seemed likely to barrel ahead, and that the Russians would begin their advance immediately afterwards.   

 

In terms of the argument on 1 August concerning the Schlieffen Plan, the impetus for the showdown had been the sudden premise of British neutrality.  When this possibility was removed by Lichnowsky later that evening, the focal point of the dispute between Bethmann and Moltke disappeared, and the original plan continued.


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#31 Ken Estes

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1438 PM

Bill, I have often wondered what G thought they would do but have not discovered his original writing on it, not that it was a high priority for me. I can only imagine he thought the complete deployment plan would have been effected, bringing the bulk of the army to the BE-FR frontier, after which new orders would have sent the trains and troops across to the Russian frontier, a la Waldersee Plan. Technically, they could have done that, trusting to the forts and BE neutrality to hold in the west while the Waldersee Plan was resurrected on the fly. Given the slow pace on the E front by the principal Russian commanders, it might have worked.

 

But the problem is still militarism, and as you pointed out, the Germans wish for an early settlement vs France and Russia, overruling diplomacy while they have the advantages they perceive as fading over time. So, yes, no mistakes were made in their frame of reference and they did what they intended all along.

 

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#32 BillB

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1440 PM

 

Frankly, this always strikes me as the equivalent to the modern American whining of "we could have won Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan if we only had taken the gloves off" - except that British politics seem to have a propensity for losing the peace after winning the preceding war, and entirely by their own domestic decisions. I don't see much that was foregone in the armistice and Treaty of Versailles, least of all at Wilson's insistence, other than maybe the French intention to move their border to the Rhine or else create a buffer state there (which they tried anyway). And the most far-reaching French plans were opposed by the UK as much as the US due to the British desire of avoiding a power vacuum in Central Europe with revolutionary Russia to the East.

 

Moreover, there was not much that could have been realistically achieved over what happened anyway. Germany could have been totally demilitarized, but that would not only have gone against the British strategy, but under the treaty provisions it shouldn't have been a credible threat to anybody as it was. It could have been hit with even more reparations, but it couldn't pay them as it was, and again it was the UK along with the US, long after Wilson, who pushed France into eventually having payments cancelled. It couldn't be forced to install a new system of government as after 1945, because it had already done that by itself.

 

Arguably the armistice in France between nominally unbeaten armies was fatal in that it allowed the creation of the dagger stab myth, but even there I can't see what continued fighting would have achieved over the eventual treaty regulations in practice - it would have been a case of "we won't allow you to sue for unconditional peace until you accept unconditional peace!"; and let's face it, after four years of slaughter nobody would have relished the perspective to fight all the way into a country that was already erupting into revolutionary fervor.

 

I guess Germany could have been occupied beyond the Rhineland to drive the message home like in 1945, and maybe split up like Austria-Hungary; but again, that was close to happening anyway with separatism in the Rhineland, Bavaria, Thuringia plus the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Eastern territories. Unlike in the Austrian empire, nationalism worked for rather than against unity though, so the division would have to be enforced. That would need a post-1945 mindset of sustained continental engagement to be retconned in that was just not there in British post-1918 politics as far as I can see (in fact the traditional strategy of using continental nations as balancing blocks was pretty much diametrically opposed to it).

 

Unfortunately once you allow WW I to happen (which looks pretty inevitable by itself within a few years of the original timeframe given the alliances and the way everybody on the continent was spoiling for a fight over perceived past injuries), I think WW II is an almost inescapable result. What distinguished the outcome of the latter from the former more than anything else was the almost unequivocal acceptance of responsibility by both winners and losers - there was little denying that Germany had started that one, and the Allies realized they had to stay put. Notably, while they bit the sour apple of continued engagement, success arose with a more lenient regime than the hardline approach foreseen by the Morgenthau Plan and similar.

 

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment about the British propensity for losing the peace and most of the last para apart from you missing the beginning of the Cold War having a lot to do with it too, but my position is a long way from the whining you refer to and you are being a tad selective I think.

 

The key point is that had hostilities continued until the German Army in the west had been destroyed in the field then there would have been no victory parade, no ambiguity about who had lost and likely therefore less ambiguity as to who started it, which would not only have been a good thing from an international perspective but to German domestic advantage too. The German Army carried much if not most responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict and the damage it inflicted on Germany, but as it was they were able to walk away with their privileged position in German society pretty much intact. They deflected the Allied antipathy to the Kaiser by dropping their role as the bulwark of absolutism like a hot potato, they adroitly avoided domestic responsibility for the consequences of defeat by handing it to Ebert et al and thereby set them up to take take the flak for Versailles, they kept their hands clean in the crushing of the German Revolution by using the Freikorps as a proxy, to the extent that the German people were happy to elect a field marshal as president. And behind that until 1933 they ran rings round the German government and the Allies by preparing for round two via shell companies in Spain and Sweden and co-operating with the Soviets; I think the rise of Hitler and his merry men has conveniently obscured the degree to which the German military were determined to have round two. Had the German Army been comprehensively defeated in the field in 1918 rather than being allowed to disengage and trot off home like an undefeated force then things may well have turned out rather differently; I suspect that the Weimar Republic might have stood a better chance if the public opprobrium it attracted had been directed at the real culprit and with post-1945 style demilitarisation. :)

 

BillB   

 

Edited to add: and ref your bit about US whining in the first para, the key difference there is that the gloves had already come off and the German Army in the west had been comprehensively beaten in 1918, principally by the British in the 100 Days. They were making a fair job of a fighting withdrawal I'll grant you, but the amount of prisoners alone show that the game was up and only the Armistice saved them from total collapse. So there!  :P  :)


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#33 BillB

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1522 PM

Major problem of military history of Western Front, or WW1 in general, is that English-speaking world concentrates only on British war literature: what the Germans and French have written about the war is almost entirely untranslated and almost all casual - and many serious - history buffs are completely ignorant about them. And if their conclusions are mentioned somewhere, they tend to be ignored or discredited because of their 'foreigness', apparently only British military historians can be unbiased and neutral. For example, very extensive Wikipedia article about Battle of Somme contains 32 references from English-speaking world, zero from elsewhere.
If someone today would write a history on WW2 Eastern Front based only on German sources, he would be laughed off the stage. Yet for some reason, WW1 history runs around in circles recycling same primary sources, arguments and viewpoints, all of which are British.

I've seen this stuff from you before, can't remember if we went around on it. Either way, I disagree and would like to see some evidence of British military historians discrediting stuff for 'foreignness'; unless by 'buffs' you mean internet blowhards, in which case seriously, what do you expect? Methinks you are dressing up some obscure personal grudge as something it is not.

 

That aside, two points. First, the stuff by British mil historians is written for primarily British consumption, so what language would you suggest it should be written in? How many Finnish books on the Winter War or the Eastern Front deal with things from the Soviet perspective, or are published in English? I dunno about Germany but there are mountains of French writings on the First World War but very little if any of it deals with anything other than the French perspective, or has been translated. According to your logic I ought to be railing against Francophone discrimination...

 

Second, I think you need to take Archie's advice and step away from Wikipedia, and then mebbe dig a little deeper. Jack Sheldon has written five properly researched and referenced books on the German Army on the Western Front using German sources in addition to several smaller battlefield guides, and Hew Strachan's The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms is noteworthy because AFAIK it is the first work to examine the matter from the perspective of *all* the participants using primary source material from all of them too; that's why it runs to over 1200 pages. They are just the ones I'm familiar with off the top of my head, I expect there are others. Not many I'll grant you, but more than enough to sink your contention I think.

 

BillB 


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#34 BansheeOne

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1714 PM

The key point is that had hostilities continued until the German Army in the west had been destroyed in the field then there would have been no victory parade, no ambiguity about who had lost and likely therefore less ambiguity as to who started it, which would not only have been a good thing from an international perspective but to German domestic advantage too. The German Army carried much if not most responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict and the damage it inflicted on Germany, but as it was they were able to walk away with their privileged position in German society pretty much intact. They deflected the Allied antipathy to the Kaiser by dropping their role as the bulwark of absolutism like a hot potato, they adroitly avoided domestic responsibility for the consequences of defeat by handing it to Ebert et al and thereby set them up to take take the flak for Versailles, they kept their hands clean in the crushing of the German Revolution by using the Freikorps as a proxy, to the extent that the German people were happy to elect a field marshal as president. And behind that until 1933 they ran rings round the German government and the Allies by preparing for round two via shell companies in Spain and Sweden and co-operating with the Soviets; I think the rise of Hitler and his merry men has conveniently obscured the degree to which the German military were determined to have round two. Had the German Army been comprehensively defeated in the field in 1918 rather than being allowed to disengage and trot off home like an undefeated force then things may well have turned out rather differently; I suspect that the Weimar Republic might have stood a better chance if the public opprobrium it attracted had been directed at the real culprit and with post-1945 style demilitarisation. :)

 

BillB   

 

Edited to add: and ref your bit about US whining in the first para, the key difference there is that the gloves had already come off and the German Army in the west had been comprehensively beaten in 1918, principally by the British in the 100 Days. They were making a fair job of a fighting withdrawal I'll grant you, but the amount of prisoners alone show that the game was up and only the Armistice saved them from total collapse. So there!  :P  :)

 

 

Hence my reference to the fatal impact of the armistice in France. However, my point remains, could the outcome really be changed by not allowing the Germans to sue for peace before pushing into Germany proper? The brass already know they're beaten, and the terms are already as tough as they're going to get; the Rhineland is occupied even before the Treaty of Versailles. When the Scheidemann government gets threatened with Entente troops invading the rest if they don't sign the latter, one idea is to leave Western Germany to them without a fight and retreat to an Oststaat (Eastern and Western Prussia) as a heavily armed resistance center, not nominally part of the Reich and not under its diplomatic obligations (this idea is actually already floated in December 1918 to deal with Polish territorial demands). The ultimate reason for acquiescence is the devastating supply situation due to the continueing allied sea blockade.

 

What if the Entente continues fighting, not even giving the German government the chance of a tough-termed armistice, but the German army don't play but just withdraw in their face, citing the plight of the civilian population which suddenly becomes the responsibility of the occupation troops in a country which may at best greet them with the passive resistance experienced by the French in the Ruhr occupation, at worst rife with competing non-governmental armed bands, from communist revolutionaries to nationalist Freikorps which keep fighting each other for years in the real world? I'm sure whatever stronghold the old forces might throw up can eventually be cracked, but it will not be a happy situation for anybody involved; I don't think it's so clear-cut the outcome would be any better (I once devised a what-if in which Germany crumbled after WW I; the point was that Hitler then needed some additional years for internal Anschlüsse, so that WW II could ultimately be fought with more advanced technology :D).

 

And obviously the emerging Cold War had a decisive impact on the situation post-1945; but since the British rationale behind allowing a stable Germany post-1918 was also to avoid a power vacuum possibly filled by the USSR, I contend that the main difference is still the change from the traditional balance-of-power policy to long-term continental commitment. :)


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#35 Yama

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1812 PM

That aside, two points. First, the stuff by British mil historians is written for primarily British consumption, so what language would you suggest it should be written in?


Uh, I'm not sure I ever suggested otherwise and I don't understand where you got such an impression??

How many Finnish books on the Winter War or the Eastern Front deal with things from the Soviet perspective, or are published in English?


There used to be very little Soviet war literature translated to Finnish, because such literature didn't exist. Soviet historians dealt Winter War as a non-event. There were some Soviet histories which dealt with Continuation War and they were indeed translated to Finnish and studied by Finnish academics. However they tended to be quite generic in nature and of limited use for detailed research. Situation has changed somewhat in recent two decades.

Not many Finnish military history works (which are a huge body of literature!) have been translated to English: there simply is no market for them. Quality translation is expensive. Exceptions are mostly aviation literature, which are sometimes made straight to English or Finnish-English editions: for example Red Stars series by Geust et al: JoeB used to sometimes refer to it.

But this actually brings up very point which I was making: in early '90s aviation historians began to put together comprehensive picture of aerial warfare over Fennoscandia using primary sources from all belligrent countries (Russia, Finland, UK and Germany), allowing them to cross-refer and compare AAR's and combat claims. Results were kind of embarrassing for everyone involved: it turned out that many claims, presented as facts in previous research, were in reality complete fantasy! Every air force had demonstrated massive optimism, or outright lied about their exploits in the front. No amount of re-analysis or myth-busting based on previous work could have revealed this. It was possible only when access was gained to sources of opposing side. Many books which I had read in the '80s were rendered obsolete.

I dunno about Germany but there are mountains of French writings on the First World War but very little if any of it deals with anything other than the French perspective, or has been translated. According to your logic I ought to be railing against Francophone discrimination...


Well, I don't read French myself, and I don't know to what extent French historians have studied German or British sources so I can't comment their possible perspective bias.
Little, if any, French war literature has been translated to Finnish. Translating English literature tends to be cheaper.

Second, I think you need to take Archie's advice and step away from Wikipedia, and then mebbe dig a little deeper. Jack Sheldon has written five properly researched and referenced books on the German Army on the Western Front using German sources in addition to several smaller battlefield guides, and Hew Strachan's The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms is noteworthy because AFAIK it is the first work to examine the matter from the perspective of *all* the participants using primary source material from all of them too; that's why it runs to over 1200 pages. They are just the ones I'm familiar with off the top of my head, I expect there are others. Not many I'll grant you, but more than enough to sink your contention I think.


Well if so, that's great! Maybe my knowledge of state of WW1 research is obsolete: books I'm familiar with are older generation, mostly 'popular works', only non-English sources they quote tend to be memoirs, little if any mention to academic work from other languages. Which I view as inexcusable, since such works were available.

I wouldn't dismiss Wikipedia out of hand. Whilst it's not scientific body of work and there can be weird bias and messy edits, many articles have their main body of text written by expert on a subject: they tend to reflect state of research. Archie's example was poorly chosen: T-72 article in Russian Wikipedia actually has relatively better spread of sources than English article on Somme...
Btw: English Wikipedia lists Somme as "British/French victory", French Wikipedia considers it "indecisive", German Wikipedia says "Offensive aborted/indecisive" :)
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#36 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1830 PM

The point is using the sourcing of Wikipedia articles as "evidence" of poor scholarship and limited sourcing on the part of proper authors is ridiculous.
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#37 Colin Williams

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 1939 PM

A couple of points -

 

(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935. 

 

(2) Whether or not British generals were "donkeys", it is objectively true that the British war effort on land was severely hampered by entering the war with a small professional army that was badly decimated in the first few months of fighting (thereby sacrificing the core leadership for a larger army) rather than a large conscript force run by a professional general staff of long experience and supported by a sizable arms and munitions industry. They were bound to be "behind the curve" relative to the Germans and French for at least part of the war.


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#38 Corinthian

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 2004 PM

Ref: BillB's post, this whole thread I learned more on WW1 history from that post than any other book or documentary on the topic I've read/watched. Of course, my literature and documentary record of WW1 is very very slim....

 

Thank you all.


Edited by TomasCTT, 06 January 2014 - 2030 PM.

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#39 Andres Vera

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 2008 PM

It could be said then that the Union Army was a lions den, and that Grant was a donkey. Unfair judgement from historians is unfair.


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#40 Yama

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 0408 AM

A couple of points -
 
(1) It's pretty clear the anti-war wave of the 30s was due in part to frustrations with the postwar world of the 20s and 30s. People who felt the war was worth the sacrifice in 1925 often held a different opinion in 1935.


I will also note that "idiot generals sacrificing poor soldiers struggling in the mud" -theme is not limited to WW1. I'm pretty sure such works can be found about almost any war. In fact that exactly describes most iconic Finnish war novel, "Unknown Soldier", and not coincidentally, it was subject to similar controversy. But the fact is that many soldiers really did feel that way about the war. Lets not even talk about Vietnam movies...
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