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western front 1911-12 - Copy.jpg
At first I thought "Roermonde" was the French spelling but it's not, so what is that extra e there? And I cannot help but notice that the Dutch-Belgian border is missing except for a part in southern Limburg. But does this mean that Fortress Holland just gets overran by the Germans?
It's going to be a long six years. The front being at the Dutch border (and Anglo-Belgian guns threatening the only Channel Port that the Germans managed to capture ITTL) will also have consequences for them. I mentioned this in the 1901 essay on the September Crisis, but every independent nation in Europe gets sucked into the war ITTL, and the seeds of that involvement for the Dutch have now been sown.
I wasn't familair enough with Belgian history to think of that, but will now definitely incorporate it into the general turmoil post-war.
Combine Dutch involvement with a possibly stronger Flemish Movement and I can see a real basis for some Interbellum Greater Dutch movement forming. Perhaps a Verdinaso that is active on both sides of the border.
 
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This military Cerberus seems to be working acceptably well. I do hope the politicians stay out of the chain of command and that none of these generals develop 'ambitions'. As an American I am drawn to American examples: what Entente commanders in France need is the mindset of an Eisenhower, not a MacArthur. Mildness in adversity, cheerful willingness to do what can be done with the resources at hand, willingness to strike or hold hard at need, and respect rather than disdain for allies - that's the ticket. Oh, and the strategic gifts of a Montgomery and the tactical ability of a Hobbs or an Allen wouldn't go amiss, while we are wishing. I know, I'm using WW2 generals as examples... but equipment and environment made it so hard for an Allied general of WW1 to have a positive impact.

Still, the prospect of a million armed men coming to hang them seems to have concentrated the minds of senior commanders quite wonderfully. Let us hope that success, however modest, and failure, however large, do not break apart what this present peril has welded together.
 
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After last update I wouldn't be surprised if the southern fronts remain a mutually amiable stalemate. The Entente has few men to spare for the Alps and Pyrenees (for now), while their enemies aren't keen for all-out mountain warfare, and seeing what's happening in Flanders, they're probably right.

Well...it would be actually quite beneficial for both Italians and the entente, both for preservation of life and diplomatic reasons post war...but the truces never lasted very long OTL. It is very difficult to hold truces when all you need to do (as a general) is keep the guns further back firing.
 
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One of the most difficult tasks in training soldiers is to get them to actually kill. Some never manage it - they can't make a bayonet attack, for example. And it is well known that many soldiers never fire a weapon in combat. So part of training soldiers is to depersonalize the enemy... a truce can lead to your soldiers thinking the other fellows are nice chaps and make the job of killing them harder.
 
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One of the most difficult tasks in training soldiers is to get them to actually kill. Some never manage it - they can't make a bayonet attack, for example. And it is well known that many soldiers never fire a weapon in combat. So part of training soldiers is to depersonalize the enemy... a truce can lead to your soldiers thinking the other fellows are nice chaps and make the job of killing them harder.

The other problem is when this training works too well, which tends to happen with more 'elite's or specialised units, who then end up going nuts and don't care about who they're killing. A lot of high profile assassinations in US history were carried out by US marines for example. And after the US civil war (the first properly industrial war) the effects of this disassociation skyrocketed, much like every modern war since.
 
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With the war slowing down all over France I wonder how the Kaiser Pact will manage to resist for seven more years once the Americans arrive, especially given that Germany itself is dealing with two fronts; though I guess that Austria and Russia's performance will be less than stellar.
 
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This will no doubt portend to be excellent BBB. So I'm just dropping in now to signal my desire to catch up with this AAR.

Cheers!
 
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Likely the most poignant wildcat strike in history. A beautiful scene.

Haig’s contribution seems surprisingly positive so far, although I’ll admit that my only real sense of the man is the fact that I frequently hear people put the word “Butcher” before his name whenever it comes up in conversation. (Which is not all that often…)

Having the Winter Offensive meant I thought I'd lost my chance for it (as I doubt it would happen Christmas 1912). Luckily, I found myself with space in this chapter.

I'm very much of the revisionist school that disagrees with the 'Lambs Led By Lions' (EDIT: Lions Led By Lambs, dammit. Thank you, @TheButterflyComposer) view of WWI generalship that's been the prevailing popular perception since at least the '60s. Hopefully Searle-Wilson is getting across that revisionist viewpoint; the generals were no more competent or incompetent than in any other war. However, unlike generals before and after, they had never had the chance to really test out the new weapons of war built between 1870 and 1914 so, when war did break out, it turned out that every tactic they had was obsolete. They had to invent modern warfare on the fly, and even then it somewhat required offensive technology catching up to defensive technology for the final breakthrough.

That is much better than OTL. Especially for Belgium. Lille on the other hand can't catch a break. Both in a salient for their side, and next to one on the enemies. Good grief. Lots and lots of fighting going to occur there over the next few years.

This is quite encouraging as a development. Hopefully working together allows them to take full advantage of being a pair of nations at war with just one (the Italian front presumably also just has Italians on it. Can't see germans showing up there yet...or ever).

So mostly positive so far in the war. Despite the huge loss of life, of course. No amerfians though...which is a little concerning for everyone involved. When are they coming, how many and where is going to be the big question of 1912.

Problem ITTL is the other fronts. They're bigger and with (marginally) more competent opposite sides than IOTL.

And yes, Lille is very much screwed.

1912 may be a write-off on that front, as the election, which is limiting Teddy's room to manoeuvre, isn't until November.

So if I understand this correctly, one British crops went south and split amongst the two fronts while a British army went into the flanders? Or were the corps split from the ones in Flanders?

You are correct. Of the pre-war, 250,000-man BEF, roughly 4/5ths are in Flanders, while Haig's Corps is split between the Spanish and Italian Fronts.

At first I thought "Roermonde" was the French spelling but it's not, so what is that extra e there? And I cannot help but notice that the Dutch-Belgian border is missing except for a part in southern Limburg. But does this mean that Fortress Holland just gets overran by the Germans?

Combine Dutch involvement with a possibly stronger Flemish Movement and I can see a real basis for some Interbellum Greater Dutch movement forming. Perhaps a Verdinaso that is active on both sides of the border.

Honestly, I have no idea why the map doesn't include the Dutch-Belgian border when it includes all the others.

It's certainly a possibility.

This military Cerberus seems to be working acceptably well. I do hope the politicians stay out of the chain of command and that none of these generals develop 'ambitions'. As an American I am drawn to American examples: what Entente commanders in France need is the mindset of an Eisenhower, not a MacArthur. Mildness in adversity, cheerful willingness to do what can be done with the resources at hand, willingness to strike or hold hard at need, and respect rather than disdain for allies - that's the ticket. Oh, and the strategic gifts of a Montgomery and the tactical ability of a Hobbs or an Allen wouldn't go amiss, while we are wishing. I know, I'm using WW2 generals as examples... but equipment and environment made it so hard for an Allied general of WW1 to have a positive impact.

Still, the prospect of a million armed men coming to hang them seems to have concentrated the minds of senior commanders quite wonderfully. Let us hope that success, however modest, and failure, however large, do not break apart what this present peril has welded together.

Indeed. As I was saying to Densley, I very much fall into the camp that thinks WWI generals had an impossible job.

I haven't yet decided which way the AEF Commander will go (you can tell by the fact I haven't even decided who it is), but they may make or break this arrangement with their non-/participation.

After last update I wouldn't be surprised if the southern fronts remain a mutually amiable stalemate. The Entente has few men to spare for the Alps and Pyrenees (for now), while their enemies aren't keen for all-out mountain warfare, and seeing what's happening in Flanders, they're probably right.

On the other hand, it may be politically more palatable to go for the weaker Pact Powers, especially if Flanders proves as bloody going forward as it has so far. This was, after all, the logic for the Italian Front and Gallipoli IOTL.

Well...it would be actually quite beneficial for both Italians and the entente, both for preservation of life and diplomatic reasons post war...but the truces never lasted very long OTL. It is very difficult to hold truces when all you need to do (as a general) is keep the guns further back firing.

boom, boom, boom, boom, boom - The German Guns, Pvt Baldrick

One of the most difficult tasks in training soldiers is to get them to actually kill. Some never manage it - they can't make a bayonet attack, for example. And it is well known that many soldiers never fire a weapon in combat. So part of training soldiers is to depersonalize the enemy... a truce can lead to your soldiers thinking the other fellows are nice chaps and make the job of killing them harder.
The other problem is when this training works too well, which tends to happen with more 'elite's or specialised units, who then end up going nuts and don't care about who they're killing. A lot of high profile assassinations in US history were carried out by US marines for example. And after the US civil war (the first properly industrial war) the effects of this disassociation skyrocketed, much like every modern war since.

One of the more subtle (well, comparatively) ways to do this is what the First Marine Recon apparently does. In as many situations as possible, including as a substitute for 'yes, sir', have the men shout 'KILL!' Recon veteran Rudy Reyes talks about this in Once Upon A Time in Iraq, and you can see it in Generation Kill, the adaptation of Evan Wright's book about being embedded with them during the invasion.

It also becomes more necessary the more war becomes an aberration or the purview of a professional few, as the average person grows up less and less desensitized to violence. I'm no psychologist, but I would imagine it also increases the dissociation experienced in modern war, as it becomes more and more of a break from regular life.

With the war slowing down all over France I wonder how the Kaiser Pact will manage to resist for seven more years once the Americans arrive, especially given that Germany itself is dealing with two fronts; though I guess that Austria and Russia's performance will be less than stellar.

Austria, and particularly Russia, are the key here. If Germany breaks them before the Entente can break Italy and Spain, they will have a breadbasket in Ukraine and only one front to fight on.

This will no doubt portend to be excellent BBB. So I'm just dropping in now to signal my desire to catch up with this AAR.

Cheers!

Thanks! Happy to have you on board.

I think I said this in my H1 ACA Ballot, but Empire for Liberty is great, and gives me the warm fuzzies. Happy to see it back, even if the hiatus was for an even more joyous reason.
 
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11
Imperial Defence


The sun never sets on the British Empire, and so it never sets on British wars.
William Ewart Gladstone, 1868

Never have I been so happy to be posted out here, beyond the sight of God.
Jonathan Hill, January 4th, 1912


The Napoleonic Wars and Anglo-French Wars of the 18th Century had included combat on every continent save Antarctica, so it is wrong to consider the Great War the first global conflict. Unlike in the former, the Americas were, in fact, almost completely spared land combat. What does distinguish the Great War is the intensity of colonial fighting and the extensive use of colonial troops across the world.

In Asia, Africa, and Oceania, though their experience did not reach the brutal heights of the Western and Eastern Fronts in Europe, local populations would find themselves unable to escape the rigours of industrial warfare. Whether it be through recruitment of able-bodied men, increasing demands for taxation, or becoming a battleground, the work of the colonial powers to document, tax, and exploit the resources of these areas in the preceding decades had ensured the Great War would be far more than yet another far-off conflict of the colonial ruler’s that could be safely ignored.

This does not mean that being dragged into the war was immediate. For its first six months, the imperial dimension was largely the business of the existing regular units of the powers, and Britain was no exception. In those months, there were three extra-European theatres that Britain was the primary Entente force in; Abyssinia, the Middle East, and the Indonesian Archipelago.

By far the most important, and largest, of these theatres was the Middle Eastern one, in which Britain faced the forces of an aggressively irredentist Ottoman Empire. Long a putative ally of the UK’s following the August Revolution of 1841, the 1904 March Restoration had seen reactionary forces marginalise the liberal, pro-British Parliament of the 1841 Constitution, and align the ailing empire with Germany. This had been a long time coming; while the Parliament had accepted British intervention in the Balkan Crisis of 1862 and takeovers of Aden (1843), Persia (1867), and Egypt (1885) as efforts to stabilise a periphery the empire could not hold, the other organs of the state, particularly the Sultan and army, had only tolerated them because of British superiority of arms. When the Boer War had exposed British weaknesses, they had performed their coup.


Middle-East 1911 - Copy.jpg

The Ottoman Empire, 1911

Persia and Aden, being protectorates, rather than outright colonies, had merely token garrisons in their capitals. This meant that, until reinforcements could arrive from British India or Africa, the protectorates’ own armies would have to provide for their defence. Though the terrain of Persia would prevent much progress into the Central Plateau, Ottoman armies with training from German advisors – and even some materiel provided pre-war – were able to quickly overrun the low-lying Khuzestan Plain. Aden, meanwhile, was saved by the British Indian Ocean Squadron patrolling the Red Sea Coast, providing the protection of their guns against a poor Ottoman attempt.

It was, however, the Suez where British troops provided the first line of defence, and the Suez where the Ottoman army would concentrate its southern efforts. Not only would control of it force the Entente to ship imperial men and materiel via the Cape of Good Hope, but control of it after the war would give the Empire a claim to the world power they had lost. The return of Persia, the Balkans, and the Caucasus to Ottoman control would provide manpower and prestige, but possession of the passage to Asia would put them back in the pivotal geopolitical position they had been before its construction and the many humiliations of the previous century.

It was for this reason that the Sinai Garrison, despite being one of the closest units to the likely battlefields in France, was never designated for reassignment there in case of war. In late 1911, this garrison was composed of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, a cavalry regiment. For six months before the Ottoman offensive began in November, they had been shoring up the fortifications in the Sinai and drilling for just this occasion. Guarding, as they were, the only other exit from the Mediterranean to the open oceans, it is no wonder that these fortifications were the closest that could be found in the world to the fortress at Gibraltar.

Over the course of a month-long effort, the Ottoman force under Zeki Pasha found out – just as way as the Spanish had – how hard such fortifications were to break when backed by the number of guns common to an early-war British unit. The attempt to capture El Arish and move west on the road to Port Said was a miserable failure, with half of the Ottoman attackers becoming casualties within two weeks. For this sacrifice, they had not even made it into the city.


ARISH TRENCH - Copy.jpg

Infantrymen of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the trenches at El Arish, November 1911

The attempt to flank the road by the south and cut the Canal at it southern point, the eponymous city of Suez, fell prey to the Lancers, who mercilessly harassed the Ottoman column in one of the most effective uses of cavalry of the entire war [1]. By the time they reached the trench system on the east bank, opposite the city, the Ottomans were in barely a state to fight, much less win. Zeki Pasha’s attempt to circumvent the Arish road was cut to shreds over the course of a three-day battle that led to the total surrender of the remainders of the Ottoman 35th Division.

In the month between the first engagements outside El Arish on November 7th and the surrender of the 35th on December 12th, the Sinai Garrison had incurred 5,000 casualties from an October strength of 25,000 men. The Ottoman Fourth Army, meanwhile, had crossed the Egypt-Palestine border with a rough strength of 100,000 men. It limped back to defensive positions in Ottoman territory with a fighting strength of 47,000. Fortunately for the Sublime Porte, the newly designated 8th Army could not press this advantage. While its losses could be replenished, the necessary reinforcements for a push into Palestine were swallowed up by the meatgrinder of France, other imperial commitments, and the need to defend against a possible Italian effort to invade Egypt by sea while the Pact still held the Mediterranean.

This stalemate, the Ottomans – wary of another push ending in disaster – concentrating elsewhere, the British too short of forces to advance, would persist well into the next year. We thus move to developments in the two minor imperial theatres. Of these, the one that saw more action was East Africa, where British forces provided the opposition to General Francisco Cassola’s Army of Abyssinia. Though he would, especially later in the war, be heavily outnumbered and cut off from Spain, Cassola would prove a thorn in the side of British efforts to close off this minor front.


africa 1911 - Copy.jpg

North and Central Africa, 1911

Cassola, knowing the odds against him, and knowing that troops from British Africa would be sent to Abyssinia first, before Spanish Gabon and Cameroon or the Spanish Sahara, decided quickly upon a strategy of evasion. Though he would make an attempt to take the ports of British Somaliland and French Eritrea, the majority of his effort would be concentrated on a semi-guerrilla campaign in the Abyssinian interior. He could not win the war in East Africa, but he could prolong it, and thus tie up British troops that might otherwise go to West Africa or Spain itself.

In early December, Cassola’s 10,000-man force of irregulars evicted the small, 600-man Somaliland Garrison at Lughaya forcing them to retreat to Djibouti. The march, over 100 miles in sweltering heat, was brutal on the garrison, as Cassola had refused to give them supplies, which he also needed, after accepting the surrender. Only 200 men made it within the walls of the French garrison to receive life-saving food and water. The unintended upshot of Cassola’s decision was that, when his army arrived two weeks later, having burned the docks and fort at Lughaya to deny it to a British landing, the garrison had no interest in surrendering. They knew that the closest friendly force was at Assab, a 250-mile march away. If Cassola repeated his choice, they would all die.

The result of the eight-day Battle of Djibouti was Cassola’s most costly loss of the war. He lost some 1,000 men he could not afford to lose, while the garrison’s 2,000 Frenchmen and 200 survivors of Lughaya had lost 623 and 78 men, respectively. It had become clear that he could take Djibouti, but not continue his war if he did. Cassola’s force therefore retreated back into Abyssinia, where he set out to cobble together a vast force of local irregulars to complement his Spanish core. He was able to do this in peace during the winter and spring of 1912 due to a similar lack of Entente manpower as had saved the Ottomans from a counterattack further north.

In the South Pacific, the problem was not only of manpower, but of the logistics of the theatre. Here too, the Entente had the edge in terms of practically surrounding the smaller Pact colonies, but the sheer number of islands, inlets, and the difficulty of naval supply made the prospect of occupying them particularly daunting. The fact that the number and disposition of Pact naval forces in the area was entirely unknown further complicated this already complex battleground.


south pacific 1911 - Copy.jpg

The South Pacific Theatre, 1911

It was thought that the German protectorate Sultanates of Kalimantan and Sulawesi would be the easier targets, as defeat of the German garrison would, in theory, lead to a flipping of allegiance from the two sultans. Spanish Sandakan, while, by all accounts, garrisoned more heavily than the protectorates, would have little hope with British Sarawak to its west and the American Philippines (until 1901 also a Spanish colony) to its east. The real challenge was New Guinea and the island of New Cadiz [2]. Not only were both vast territories, but the Spanish garrison there was reportedly the largest colonial force in the South Pacific.

The decision was therefore made to concentrate on keeping the major Spanish garrison towns of Valencia Pacifica (in the north) and Magellan (in the south) under watch by the US Philippine Fleet, French Pacific Squadron, and British Australia Squadron. An Anglo-American force would land at Sandakan in January, while troops from the Australia Garrison would occupy the capitals of Sulawesi and Kalimantan in February. This plan proved a disaster.

The Spanish force at Sandakan immediately resorted to the same kind of hit-and-run tactics that Cassola was about to deploy to even more effect in East Africa. The sultans, meanwhile, proved less than willing to abandon the German garrisons, fearing the consequences of a German victory. The latter two forces were forced to retreat from their beachheads in a matter of days, while the former was essentially trapped in the colony’s eponymous capital, unwilling to patrol for fear of Spanish attacks. The military ships of the Entente powers were also forced by March to patrol the various waters of the Indonesian Archipelago, as small Spanish and German ships, hiding in the aforementioned islands and inlets, began to conduct a campaign of indiscriminately attacking shipping [3].

Here, again, the logic of the early colonial war asserted itself. Though the Entente held an advantage, it could not press it for lack of men and materiel. With the French fronts seemingly becoming only more titanic in their proportions, this stalemate seemed doomed to continue, unless somebody could come up with a way to do more with less.


[1] – It was his experience in the First Battle of the Sinai that would convince one Lancer, a Thomas Edward Lawrence, that cavalry could still work in the wide-open expanses of the artillery-starved Middle Eastern Front.

[2] – The latter had been known, until Spanish colonisation in 1894 as Nova Britannia, New Britain, a name it would be known by again post-war.

[3] – The fact that Dutch ships were also coming under attack caused significant tensions between Germany and the Netherlands, a relationship already agitated by the presence of war on the Dutch border with Flanders.
 
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I recommend Eugene Sledge's 'With the Old Breed'. It's a story of the old Marine Corps, the men who led the fight in the Pacific Islands in WW2. It will make the fighting real to you and explain, as much as anything can, what they had to endure and do.

Britain is going to have to turn to Indian and maybe Anzac troops to clear the Pacific and African theaters. The consequences of training a lot of Indian troops will just have to be endured later.

Control of the seas is of inestimable value to the Entente - they should be able to exploit strategic mobility to rush fire brigades from one threatened point to another.

I can't see TR handing over command of American troops to European generals - but I can see him leaning heavily on his generals to co-operate to the fullest extent. In the same way I expect TR to push aside older generals in favor of youth and vigor. Frederick Funston would probably head the list - he served in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines, and would have been Wilson's choice to lead the AEF had he not died suddenly in 1916. Pershing had been Funston's subordinate in the hunt for Pancho Villa.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Lambs Led By lions

That is, lions led by lambs???

While its losses could be replenished, the necessary reinforcements for a push into Palestine were swallowed up by the meatgrinder of France, other imperial commitments, and the need to defend against a possible Italian effort to invade Egypt by sea while the Pact still held the Mediterranean.

Hmm. One change that means the ottomans are not going to be swept aside by a player who knows what they're doing...at least not yet. The british can't leave Egypt until Italy is defanged in the Mediterranean. But once they manage that, mesopotamia is wide open to invasion. Hopefully the central powers know this and try to keep the british in Africa and the Italian fleet floating for as long as they can.
 
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Wraith11B

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One of the more subtle (well, comparatively) ways to do this is what the First Marine Recon apparently does. In as many situations as possible, including as a substitute for 'yes, sir', have the men shout 'KILL!' Recon veteran Rudy Reyes talks about this in Once Upon A Time in Iraq, and you can see it in Generation Kill, the adaptation of Evan Wright's book about being embedded with them during the invasion.

It also becomes more necessary the more war becomes an aberration or the purview of a professional few, as the average person grows up less and less desensitized to violence. I'm no psychologist, but I would imagine it also increases the dissociation experienced in modern war, as it becomes more and more of a break from regular life.
This isn't just a Recon thing--it's expanded by-and-large to the entire Corps at this point. Many an early morning PT session at Tulane University punctuated by "Move!" "KILL!" as we threw ourselves around at times... even back in 2003/4.
 

DensleyBlair

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Excellent to see the wider picture. Spain really did well in the scramble for… well, just about everywhere, but the looks of it. Seems to be most places that aren't British are Spanish. And we already have the one hint of this shifting about a bit post-war, so presumably the British could be in for a massive expansion of their empire here…
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Excellent to see the wider picture. Spain really did well in the scramble for… well, just about everywhere, but the looks of it. Seems to be most places that aren't British are Spanish. And we already have the one hint of this shifting about a bit post-war, so presumably the British could be in for a massive expansion of their empire here…

Its great for everyone really. A really weak empire got a load of valuable stuff. So all the other empires can tank them whenever they want, whilst also having a solid trading partner all over the world.

Problem is, Spain got ideas from winning bits of Africa, and now they think they can take on the superpowers. By themselves, effectively, since they aren't going to be reinforced in the pyrenees for years if ever.

Think Spain is going to be the big loser of the war. Unless they smarten up and switch sides quickly. Then they might get away with it.
 

slothinator

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Those colonial borders with Spain seem like a massive pain in the neck, far too much land to cover for an orderly front.
I'm impressed by the Pact's resilience in the colonies; with France taking up so much manpower I wonder if the colonial front will be a long-lasting ulcer for the Entente.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Those colonial borders with Spain seem like a massive pain in the neck, far too much land to cover for an orderly front.
I'm impressed by the Pact's resilience in the colonies; with France taking up so much manpower I wonder if the colonial front will be a long-lasting ulcer for the Entente.

Well the reason it was done so quickly otl was because France and the UK surrounded everyone else when it came to African colonies and had already won the naval war handily.

There was still a a nasty guerilla war in East Africa for the whole of the war though.

I think TTL, those Indian armies moving through to help France are going to have to stop in Africa first. Egypt simply has to have a strong garrison AND the british need to push into the middle east. So they need a proper sized army there.

Plus Spain can genuinely do some damage to African holdings for as long as they're allowed to run around, and the british probably don't want to leave South Africa to deal with everything. So another army there.

Basically, the british won't be able to deploy the numbers they did OTL onto the western front because the African fronts and Egypt are far less secure and need much more manpower.

It's looking like the british will have to hold the line in the north Western front with what they have and what Canada can give them. Everyone else will have to sail their troops past suez first...and that means at least some will be dropped off there.
 
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mad orc

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I am back to reading this after so long
I honestly don't know what chapter I had last read so probably gonna start from
'A LONGER WAY TO TIPPERARY THAN TO SYDNEY'
 
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