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Germany Fights On, 1919

Here's something I've been thinking about as the basis for a story.

Let's assume the peace talks in 1919 fall through and Germany resolves to continue the fight, on the assumption that the allies will split and they might just be able to pull off a semi-victory (particularly if they can bring their russian gains online.) So they refuse to end the war ...

What then?

Chris
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
Starvation in Germany. Ration allowance for German civilians had fallen below 1000 cal/per person per day, and the ration allowance was not being achieved in any of the large cities, because the distribution network had totally fallen apart, and rural areas weren't sending stuff to cities (to avoid starvation themselves). Malnutrition and diseases from malnutrition had become endemic. Numerous diseases were rife. It has been estimated that around 1 million German died of starvation or diseases resulting from malnutrition over the course of the war. This was on an accelerating path; insignificant numbers in 1914, a couple of hundred in 1915, a few thousand in 1916, tens of thousands in 1917, hundreds of thousands in 1918. Fighting on into 1919 means, conservatively, 3 million dead civilians in that year, possibly up to 7 million dead civilians. That's from food shortages alone.

Revolt. The civilian population were pissed off with the war. Socialists were actively fighting with the authorities to bring an end to the war. Outside of the Conservative Establishment, the workforce and the people wanted an end.

Mutiny. By the end of 1916, the Bavarians and Saxons in the front lines were already pointing out to the British Army where the Prussians were, and telling the British Tommies where and when Prussians would be launching trench raids so that the Tommies could kill the Prussians and maybe they could all go home. This was getting worse, and by the Black Day of 1918, this had reached serious proportions. Forget the "mutinies" of the French Army, the German Army post August 1918 was essentially broken.

Defeat. The manpower had shifted irrevocably towards the Entente. France had been bled as dry as Germany, but Britain still had a way to go, and American troops were arriving in ever-increasing numbers. The Russian gains had been used in March 1918. They're now dead. The British and French Empires were still in the hunt. The Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires are down and out, so the Entente will be able to relocate the forces used against them (Palestine, Salonika, Mesopotamia, and so on). That's another 2 million veteran troops available for the Western Front, when the German Army was done to well below 1 million.

Add in to this the technological advances (tanks, combined arms, etc), and the German shortage of materiel, and there's only one way that continuing the war in 1919 will end, and that's sausages in Berlin by June at the latest.

Economic collapse. Britain and France were struggling to meet the cost of the war. Germany's economy was in total disarray.

After that, things then start to look grim for German prospects. It's going to get worse.
 

CountZingo

Active member
I'd think that it's inevitable that the Germans would lose the war - I think the question is how bad they would lose the peace. Something comparable to Versailles would likely be viewed as too light - at this point, Germany may be looking at being forcibly disunified into several states again.

This would also give the Communists a bit of a boost - with the Allies and the Germans fighting each other, they're not fighting the Communists. This may lead to more initial Communist victories.

Although there would be devastation from Allied troops in Germany, the various German states would be either democracies or monarchies - any German Communist movement would be quashed by the Allies. In addition, the "stab-in-the-back" myth would be killed before it even really started.

That being said, things might not go too well for the Allies, either. Signing an armistice to finally end the war and then restarting it probably wouldn't be popular in the eyes of the average Allied citizen, even if the Germans started it. We may see some kind of mutiny / communist revolution, and at that point it's anyone's guess as to who would come out on top.
 

Aznavour

Well-known member
Published by SLP
By 1919 there is barely a German state, let alone a German army. Who would even make such a decision? Ebert? Some Putschist generals?

Even fighting in November of 1918 would only result in American and allied troops marching towards the ine, at which point even the most diehards would acknowledge thatbthe end had come, if only because of the Berlin Soviet that would have sprung beneath them.
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
Mostly agree, @David Flin , but where did you get the info about the Bavarians and Saxons from?
Assorted letters home from British soldiers, assorted letters home from Saxon troops, IWM records of regimental reports, Court Martial records of the German Army (for some reason, Higher Command didn't take a happy view of such actions).

The Scottish and Saxon regiments for some reason got on very well whenever they were in the line opposite each other.
 

Time Enough

"Enthusiastic Cis Male Partner"
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The Scottish and Saxon regiments for some reason got on very well whenever they were in the line opposite each other.
Of course they did, who doesn't love the Scottish.

Joking aside, yeah Germany's toast at this point. There's also the fact that the Italians would have plowed through the Austrain defences (by this point the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a state in name only) and hovered ominously near Bavaria.

That and the Entente has Naval superiority at this point. Add the other factor of Communists Revolutionaries and Mutinys too.
 

iainbhx

Daddy wouldn't buy me a Bauhaus
Moderator
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Published by SLP
I'm not entirely sure there is an entity called Germany to fight on in 1919 if the Versailles Talks collapse.

The Rhineland and the Ruhr are occupied, the Blockade is still in place, the High Seas Fleet is gone (if they collapse after March 1919) or will be in mutiny, much of the army is already disbanded or has just left its positions, you have mass strikes and revolutions everywhere, the old order is gone, abdicated and often left the country.

I wonder who would fight on?
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
I suspect there might even be more than two sides. In some places there might be as many as five or six.
I guess a Germany fights on after Versailles Peace Talks collapse could be made into a very dark comedy. "We've no army, navy, industry, our people are dying of starvation, there's mutinies and strikes and revolts and all sorts of internal fighting going on, we've no equipment, we're outnumbered 10-1 now, they've got tanks and artillery and planes and all sorts, and we've got half a turnip and indomitable will."

Indomitable Will waves to the audience.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Germany fighting on into 1919 means no Germany in 1920 and a lot less Germans to boot. I assume this means no reparations from what was Germany because they wouldn't have any real way to pay it (and the need for revenge is probably sated by carving up a land of corpses).

The utter desolation of what was a powerful developed nation, you'd hope that would have an impact on the post-war world. The cost of a modern war would be made even clearer
 

lordroel

Active member
Here's something I've been thinking about as the basis for a story.

Let's assume the peace talks in 1919 fall through and Germany resolves to continue the fight, on the assumption that the allies will split and they might just be able to pull off a semi-victory (particularly if they can bring their russian gains online.) So they refuse to end the war ...

What then?

Chris
This would have happen: Plan 1919

 

DaleCoz

Well-known member
Part of the problem was that the Allies demanded some stuff as the price of the Armistice that would have made resuming the war difficult. Among those demands: Evacuation of French and Belgian territory, Allied occupation of the Rhineland, giving up a huge number of military assets, including 5000 artillery pieces, huge numbers of locomotives and train cars, turning over all u-boats, along with a big chunk of the High Seas Fleet and giving up most of the German bombers. The Allies had no intention of letting the Germans renew the war after a rest period and made sure they couldn't.

If the Germans were going to continue the war, they would have been better off not signing the armistice in the first place. I believe that Ludendorf pushed for that in late October 1918. That probably wasn't a realistic option though, given the state of German morale at the time and the fact that Germany's allies had mostly already dropped out of the war. If you wanted to get the war continuing, you would almost have to go back at least to the spring of 1918 and have the Germans make better decisions there, if not further back.
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
If you wanted to get the war continuing, you would almost have to go back at least to the spring of 1918 and have the Germans make better decisions there, if not further back.
Spring 1918 was Germany's last throw of the dice. They either win then, quickly, or they lose.

The civilian population is already facing starvation. By Spring, 1918, 40% of children in Germany are suffering from rickets, the death rate from TB had doubled, food riots are endemic in the cities, around 100K civilians have already died from food shortages, and this figure is rising sharply. Typhoid has taken a grip in all the major cities, with deaths having risen to the low thousands and rising by an order of magnitude each year.

By Spring, 1919, the blockade is still in effect. By Spring 1919, all of the food shortage issues are significantly worse. The turnip winter of 1916/17 was bad; winter 1917/18 was worse in terms of deaths, albeit relieved by better weather generating a better than expected harvest. The winter of 1918/19 would, had the war been continuing, have been disastrous, because the weather was worse and the harvest even worse than that of the turnip winter. You are looking at millions dying.

Germany can win in Spring 1918, but what it can't do is continue the war much beyond what historically happened. Once Spring 1918 is passed, Germany loses by Spring 1919 at the latest, and all that one can do is jiggle about with the details of how it loses.
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
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Yeah, the war's outcome is not in question here but the nature of the settlement afterwards is.

Much depends upon why the fighting resumes. Unlike Japan in 1945, the military leadership wanted peace, though not the responsibility for it. There's not really a clique of young officers who are fanatical enough to restart hostilities, let alone having the capability to launch such a coup.

I don't think it's at all doable for fighting to restart after the Armistice. That really did hamstring Germany, though as David says it was hardly in good shape by late 1918 anyway.

It's actually easier to picture a full collapse into civil war and revolution before any armistice is formally signed- 1919 sees the Allies advance east to put down various Communes and Freikorps warlords. The Entente war poets write their final verses about the haunting sight of the vast and abandoned defensive works they're just walking into, mighty citadels against whose walls millions died, abandoned and collapsing. I dunno, maybe there's something there.
 

Max Sinister

Active member
Assorted letters home from British soldiers, assorted letters home from Saxon troops, IWM records of regimental reports, Court Martial records of the German Army (for some reason, Higher Command didn't take a happy view of such actions).

The Scottish and Saxon regiments for some reason got on very well whenever they were in the line opposite each other.
OK, I had expected some book as a source. Are you working as a historian, or why do you know all of these sources?
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
OK, I had expected some book as a source. Are you working as a historian, or why do you know all of these sources?
I'm writing a TL set in roughly the period. Obviously, if I'm writing about people (fictional or real), I need to know how they thought. If I didn't, the TL wouldn't be convincing. I leave it to the reader to say how convincing or otherwise the story is (Bring Me My Bow, and sequels upcoming, available from SLP).

You may have noticed that I'm also writing a series of articles about the Great War on the SLP blog.

Research, in the day of the Internet, isn't that difficult. Analysis of data is the harder part. Back in the day, before the Internet, acquisition of data was the hard part.
 
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