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January 21, 2012
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Belgium Put the Kaibosh on the Empereur by Kurarun Belgium Put the Kaibosh on the Empereur by Kurarun
This is something I made for the Map of the Fortnight contest over on The challenge was to make a map showing a scenario which is the reverse of a scenario from our timeline. The map shows a scenario in which France invades Germany via the Low Countries in the early 1900s, as a sort of reverse Schlieffen Plan.

The point of divergence from our own history is prior to the Franco-Prussian war - specifically France buys some of the breech-loading steel cannons that historically gave Prussia such a great advantage in the Franco-Prussian war from our timeline. It's not enough to win the war, but it's enough to prevent it going quite as disastrously as it did historically, so the Emperor isn't captured by the Prussian forces and the Second Empire continues on after the war.


The Franco-Prussian war was won before it was fought. Whilst France's soldiers sported the superior Chassepot rifle, this was the largest of only a few advantages the great power had. Prussia, meanwhile, had the advantage of the superior breech-loading steel artillery provided by Alfred Krupp, and whilst France had purchased some similar "Kruppstahl" cannons under the insistence of Emperor Napoleon III, most of France's artillery remained tried and tested muzzle-loading bronze designs. In addition to this, Prussia's use of railways to quickly mobilise and manoeuvre its forces had no equal in French military doctrine, and Prussia's army was the only one in the world with the benefit of a dedicated General Staff.

The Prussians beat France back from the border, and got so far as to besiege Paris. Though they never marched on the city themselves, their previous victories and the untenability of the French position led to a French surrender, and the transfer of Alsace-Lorraine - now Elsaß-Lothringen - to Germany.

France had been decisively defeated, but it was not out of the game for good. The French Emperor, Napoleon III, immediately set about analysing why France had lost, and how it could remove its disadvantages. A French General Staff was created, and French military doctrine was radically rewritten for a new age of warfare.

The Emperor was not only concerned with military doctrine and the nature of the army's equipment, but also with geopolitics. Traditionally France had one of the largest armies in Europe, but was unable to bring it to bear against any one foe due to its central position. In the run-up to the Franco-Prussian war, the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had diplomatically isolated France, ensuring they had no allies to come to their defence. Though Napoleon III died in 1873, his campaign to break up von Bismarck's Dreikaiserbund - an alliance of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires - continued with his son Napoleon IV, who helped break up the Bund in 1875, and obtained a mutual defence pact with Russia in 1879, in order to counter the dual alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary. This broke France's isolation, and Napoleon IV instantly began diplomatic overtures with Italy and Britain, hoping to ensure the neutrality of both in the event of a war between France and Germany. These diplomatic ties improved greatly once Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed Otto von Bismarck as German chancellor in 1890 - the Kaiser pursued a much more aggressive foreign policy than the Iron Chancellor von Bismarck had, alienating many nations who were leaning towards the German camp.

In the years between 1900 and 1910 tensions between the Franco-Russian bloc and the German-Austro-Hungarian bloc grew, as dissent in Austro-Hungarian Bosnia - supported by Kingdom of Serbia - threatened to bring Russia (Serbia's ally) and Austria to war. The French Chief of Staff at the time, Joseph Joffre, decided that France's current preparations for a potential war with Germany were inadequate, and so oversaw a radical change in French military strategy. Reasoning that German fortifications in Alsace-Lorraine were too formidable to attack from the front, Joffre formed a plan of attack whereby a number of French armies would march through neutral Belgium and the Netherlands, catching the German defences off-guard and surrounding them. This plan was further modified over the years, eventually becoming Plan XVII.

The opportunity for war came in 1911. Austria-Hungary claimed it had evidence linking a number of Serbian nationals to a series of terrorist attacks and assassinations in Bosnia, and demanded their extradition. Serbia refused to extradite a number of the alleged terrorists, leading Austria-Hungary to declare war, ostensibly to protect its territory from foreign terrorists.

Germany backed up Austria-Hungary's invasion, and said it would defend Austria-Hungary if any nation attacked it as a result. Russia, seeing itself as the protector of all Slavic nations and having provided Serbia with much aid in the past, declared war on Austria-Hungary and Germany, calling in its major ally, France.

Plan XVII was then put into action, with troops being mobilised and moved quickly into position for the initial assault. Unfortunately for France, it had underestimated many things - the effectiveness of the Russian army, the willingness of Britain to go to war over the issue of Belgian neutrality, the efficiency of Germany's own mobilisation plans, and the effectiveness of the Belgian and Dutch troops to name but a few. On paper the Plan looked perfect - almost infallible - but no plan survives contact with the enemy, and this is all the more true for plans as audacious and radical as Plan XVII.
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AmongTheSatanic Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Germany would win, because with it's navy and the British navy working side by side... France isn't going to get anything worthwhile out of its colonies.
SomeRandomMinion Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2012
You mentioned that the Americans may join in on France's side...
So what would happen if the Kingdom of American States--from your "World Upside-Down" timeline existed here?
Kurarun Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The Kingdom of American States is from a completely different timline, and as such its history and the history of the world it's in is very different from that of this world.

However, if a war like this erupted in the World Turned Upside-Down timeline, then America would either join in the war when Britain does (though they probably wouldn't do much beyond blockading some French and German colonial ports, and maybe occupying some of their American or Pacific territories), or remain neutral (either because they don't think Britain needs their help, or because their relationship with Britain has begun to deteriorate as they start to eclipse Britain as the world's reigning superpower).
Todyo1798 Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
US entry would be interesting, though ultimately useless. They won't be able to supply France through the RN and the KM blockade and they certainly can't do anything in Africa due to their small navy.
Britain will be distracted in Africa, which will probably be their major front with a secondary one supporting their allies in Europe, and by navy affairs, so America could possibly get the jump on them in an invasion of Canada or somesuch, though even then it won't do much.
SWR-A Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
Wow! Now this has really caught my interest. I had heard that there really were plans in France that had a lot of similarity with the Schlieffenplan. Like marching through Belgium to catch the germans of guard. So seeing something like that is really interesting. It also makes sense for the french to aim for the Rhineland, Berlin is literally on the other side of Germany.
But same problem here as in our timeline if the plan fails you are in trouble. Royal Navy alone should already be a lot stronger than the french navy, Royal Navy and Kaiserliche Marine is just to much.
Small question, did France have enough man for eight armies? I heard that they had around five in our timeline. And Germany had 10 million more inhabitants and itīs still said that they never had the strenght to use the Schlieffenplan as planed. Then again this is alternative history and the backstory is different so everything is possible.
Kurarun Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks! I'm glad my map piqued your interest! :D

The size of the naval forces facing France are certainly overwhelming - in this world France was hoping on taking on the Kaiserliche Marine alone, and at least managing to hold them off long enough to win on land, but the Royal Navy is definitely going to throw a large number of spanners into the works.

I think France definitely has enough manpower for eight armies. For one thing, armies aren't of a consistent size, so eight armies could easily be roughly the same amount of men, but more spread out. Also, throughout the course of the First World War France called up over 8,000,000 men to arms, which is more than enough to fill eight armies of a reasonable size.
SWR-A Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
How strong was the french navy anyway? You always hear about the german-british race in building battleships but nothing about the french fleet.
Good points. Didnīt know that the french called up that many people to the arms, makes you just realise with what kind of numbers you were dealing here. Besides some people say that the germans didnīt put enough money in the armies and that that has lead to the fail of the Schlieffenplan, as well as heavily underestemating the belgians.
This whole scenario is really interesting seeing as there was a long debate in Germany what to do in case of the two fronts war. Stay passive in the west and attack in the east or stay passive in the east and attack in the west. Attacking in both directions was not possible staying passive was also no real option.
I read that Wilhelm II shortly before the breakout of the war wanted to turn the main part of the army against Russia but people talked him out of it.
Oh, by the way whats Italy doing in this timeline? Supporting France or staying neutral/on the central powers side?
Kurarun Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
By the outbreak of the First World War the French Navy was outnumbered by the Royal Navy, the Imperial Germany Navy, and the US Navy, all of which were also more modern and technically superior. In this timeline I imagine French naval development would go a bit differently, and they would at least try to keep up with the German Navy in terms of technology, if not necessarily numbers.

According to Wikipedia, France had 50 submarines at the outbreak of the First World War, whilst Germany had 29. Presumably the French submarines were less effective and less advanced in our timeline, but maybe in this alternate timeline France builds a more advanced submarine fleet, perhaps hoping to enforce a naval blockade of Germany. That should give them a chance of doing some damage to Britain's surface fleet.

Italy is meant to be neutral at the outbreak of the war, exactly how France wants them (they want to be able to concentrate their forces on one front), but whether they'll remain neutral or decide to support one side or the other is anyone's guess - I honestly don't have that worked out.
Rarayn Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012

Very interesting scenario and map. Always nice to see alternate WW1 scenarios which doesn't focus solely on Germany or Austria-Hungary.

There's a lot of interesting entries in the latest MotF, huh? The competition's tough, that's for sure.
Kurarun Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks! :D

I think Motf 51 is going to be the hardest fought MotF round yet! I mean, we've had awesome maps entered before, but this is the first time we've had quite so many in one contest round!
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