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Having seen Jaures' pacifistic position falter in the face of geo-political realities, I wonder if a more pragmatic Prime Minister will take France forward. In a general war against Austria et al, France is going to need all the friends she can get.

It seems that, following the fallout of the Dreyfus Affair and crushing defeat by the Socialists, the Royalists are pretty much dead and buried. Will we now see a drift of monarchism towards the more extreme right, with persons like Charles Maurras becoming the new mouthpieces in time?
So war it is. I think this might be the catalyst for a Grossdeutschland if A-H wins. France don't want that. Neither does Britain. Russia? Probably not either. Italy? Definitely not. So if it happens, there might soon be a second war to dismantle the beast.
By the way is that show worth watching for someone with limited knowledge of American politics or would I miss too many of the details?

It's a decent enough show for something that's produced for TV. It does an honorable enough job portraying Adams, and his close relationship with Jefferson, and his animosity toward Hamilton. Obviously not something one should "watch" and feel like they're "an expert" in. But it's one of the few public shows I would say is certainly not "spinning" our own history for whatever is in vogue. It's something like only 6 episodes, so it's very watchable. Based on David McCullough's biography John Adams, which is a good biography if you'd be interested in picking it up too.

The latter episodes (post-Revolution) really do a good job showing how venomous American politics has always been. Nothing new under the sun this side of the Atlantic.

M. Aristide Briand, President of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) of France in 1907.

Part Sixty Six - To War

Aristide Briand shared many of the same politics as Jean Jaurès, but if the former prime minister was an idealist M. Briand was a realist. As much as he disliked the new Brazilian government he swiftly moved to normalise relations with the Emperor Pedro. The South Atlantic trade was far to vital to French prosperity to be jeopardized. Briand also moved to reassure the Russian and American governments that France was still fully committed to those alliances. Here he could rely on France's friend in Washington D.C., President Debs who had established a close working relationship with M. Jaurès. Briand would not, perhaps, forge quite as strong a personal bond but he worked hard to represent France abroad.

The immediate challenge that faced Briand was that Jean Casimir-Perier was nearing the end of his seven year term as President of the French Republic. M. Casimir-Perier would in any case have found re-election in a socialist dominated Assemblée nationale difficult but his ill health ruled out such a bid (he would in fact pass away early in 1907.) Despite the crushing socialist majority Briand was inclined to selecting a candidate acceptable to the Radicals. He knew, or suspected that the Socialists in the Assemblée nationale were beginning to divide into a 'realist' bloc led by himself and an 'idealist' bloc led by Jaurès. Therefore Briand needed to broaden the base of support his government enjoyed. He was also by temperament more inclined to work with 'bourgeois' deputies than his predecessor. In the 1907 election he successfully backed Alexandre Millerand. M. Millerand was a strong socialist but like Briand he had clear pragmatic streak and his time in the Cabinet of Briand (and Jaurès) had pushed him more towards the centre. One of President Millerand's first official acts when he assumed office in April 1907 was a state visit to Saint Petersburg. The French were growing worried about their ally in Europe.

The Russian Empire had benefited from her seizure of Ostpreußen but she was still a power in relative decline, suffering from heavy emigration particularly of skilled workers and a feeble industry. For the moment she remained the giant of Europe with 91.91 million people (and 2.2 million more in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland) compared with 60.44 million French citizens, 57.41 million Britons and 55.79 million subjects of the Hapsburgs [1]. Emperor Nicholas II, was anxious of his role and the authority of the Romanovs. He blamed (not entirely fairly) the Hapsburgs for the collapse of the Kingdom of Greece and more recently Montenegro. The Tsar's secret police, the famed Okhrana where on constant alert for subversive intentions be they communist or revived Prussian/German nationalism.


Members of the Department for Protecting the Public Security and Order (better known as the Okhrana.)

Russian interest in the Balkans was sincere but what really drove the Tsar's foreign policy was concern at the strength of Vienna's position and a perceived weakening of ties with France. After the disastorous defeat of North Germany in her war with France and Russia, the Tripartite Kingdom had no serious rival between the Rhine and the Russian border. The South German Federation, a prosperous state of some 15.4 million people led by the King of Bavaria was effectively a Hapsburg satrapy. Italy had gone down in defeat in 1900 (and would of course do so again) and the Ottomans had declined into irrelevancy. That left the French Republic and the Russian Empire. France was one of the richest, most industrialised states in the world but the Dreyfus Affair, the disgrace of the Russophile General Boulanger and then the victory of the Socialists had shocked the Russian government.

Franco-Russian cooperation had been mostly military, with regular exchanges of officers and several visits by the French Navy to Sevastopol. Russia was also a customer, buying most of her artillery from French factories (she was hardly alone in this; the Soixante-Quinze was by far the most widely used field gun in the world.) Throughout the 1890s Russia had been able to count on French aid. After 1904 and the rise of Jaurès many in Saint Petersbug were frankly doubtful France would honour her treaty obligations. Briand, who renewed the alliance reassured Nicholas that the friendship between the two powers remained strong. The Millerand visit was meant to soothe Russian nerves and despite his socialism the French head of state made a positive impression to the Tsar and to the Duma.

Despite it all no one in France, even Briand with his strong grasp of international affairs, understood quite how unsettled Russia was. In 1906 Russia had fallen behind the South German Federation, a Hapsburg client state in heavy industry. The following January Aleksandr Roediger, the Minister of War informed the Tsar that due to chronic inefficiencies in mobilisation and equipment the Army of Tripartite Monarchy would outnumber Russia in the field from 1909 on, despite Russia's much greater population [2]. A study by the General Staff was bleaker yet. Given the rapid expansion of railways across Hungary a war in 1911 would see the Hapsburg forces in Kiev before Russian mobilisation was half completed. At such a point Russia would have to sue for peace regardless of any French support.

The conclusion was clear. Everyone in the Russian government knew that war with the Tripartite Monarchy would happen sooner or later. The animosity between the two powers was too intense for it to be otherwise. If Russia where to win a war against the Tripartite Monarchy it had to be before 1909. Yet such a war could only be won if France was in shape to fight and willing to fight. The Millerand visit convinced Nicholas that the will was there, but perhaps not the means.

It was events in Peking that changed everything. The Chinese government, increasingly concerned in watching Japan had drawn away from other foreign policy concerns and allowed the alliance with Vienna to lapse. That Summer an attempt at renewing the Hapsburg-Qing pact had come to nothing. To Russia it was a stroke of almost unbelievable good luck. Russia could fight the Tripartite Monarchy without the fear of a two front war. However the relief was tempered with the knowledge that the Tripartite Monarchy, now free of other commitments would seek another ally among the great powers, perhaps Russia's other long standing rival Britain.

Erich Graf von Kielmansegg.jpg

Erich Graf von Kielmansegg.

Even so Russia might still have demurred from war had it not been for an unfortunate political incident. In late July 1907, just as Alexandre Millerand was finishing his state visit a newspaper in Königsberg printed a speech by a member of the Austrian Imperial Councillor. Erich Graf von Kielmansegg, a former Minister-President of Austria-Hungary had spoken of the need for "the German-speaking peoples of Europe to return to a spirit of unity". Though the wording was ambiguous, Graf von Kielmansegg's speech had an unmistakable ring of Pan-German Nationalism. Certainly that was how several newspapers in Königsberg ran with the story, alarming the Russian authorities. It quickly emerged that Graf von Kielmansegg, who had his origins in Hanover had links to various Pan-German groups. The Russians, along with shutting down malcontent publicans in Ostpreußen demanded the Tripartite Monarchy apologise for Graf von Kielmansegg's speech and shut down various Pan-German newspapers and pressure groups.

In ordinary circumstances the speech of one Austrian politician, even one who was a former head of government and friend of Emperor Franz Joseph I would have led to little more that minor diplomatic ructions. To a Russia desperately afraid of Vienna cementing her position as leader of all the Germans it was far more sinister and in a series of diplomatic choices and counter choices in the foreign ministries of both powers friction fermented. The Tripartite Monarchy was not wholly innocent; while there were no definite schemes afloat for a Großdeutschland there were certainly those in Vienna and Budapest who viewed war with equanimity [3].

France was only dimly aware of this, dismissing, like almost everyone else the usual sabre rattling between Saint Petersburg and Vienna. In Paris President Millerand's state visit was reckoned a great success at restoring Russian confidence and Briand had turned his focus back to the South Atlantic and Brazil. Pedro III was finding his feet and dealing with the border disputes that would eventually lead to lead to war with the Kingdom of Bolivia in 1910. It was not until September 1907 that Briand realised how serious matters were becoming. On 23 September Alexander Ivanovltch de Nelidoff, the Russian minister in Paris privately informed Briand that "war between Russia and Austria is very close". Stunned, Briand asked M. Nelidov whether a diplomatic intervention by France could stave off conflict. Nelidov admitted that Briand was respected in diplomatic circles for avoiding a bad break with Brazil but that trying to play honest broker would not prevent war and would instead simply embarrass the Tsar. "The actual disputes are minor M. Briand... but my government feels it cannot afford to back down yet again." The Russian minister then asked the French prime minister whether Russia could count on French support.

It was not a question Briand could easily answer. By inclination and political belief he trended towards pacifism, albeit tempered by a far greater streak of pragmatism than that of his predecessor. Going to war with the Tripartite Monarchy over so nebulous a thing as 'Russian honour' would provoke a great backlash among the socialist deputies. On the other hand there was little doubt that Russia would be defeated if she went to war with the Hapsburgs alone and the notion of Großdeutschland was a French nightmare too. More than four million 'French' citizens were German speakers, with half living in Rheinland, a department that had been part of Prussia in recent memory. French foreign policy for half a century had been dedicated to containing, weakening or surrounding Austria (and her federal successors.)

On 25 September the question was taken out of French hands. That morning the Russian government, citing intolerable provocation by the Hapsburg state, declared war on the Tripartite Monarchy. By noon the Russians were shelling Brody in Galicia and the Black Sea Fleet had raised steam in Sevastopol. Russia, Austria, Hungary and Croatia had all begun full mobilization and a declaration was expected from the South German Federation before midnight.

Declaration of War 1907.jpg

The Mitteleuropan War erupts, 26 September 1907.

In an emergency debate in the Assemblée nationale Briand deplored the outbreak of war without assigning blame, then declared France must support her ally. He cited the long history of Franco-Austrian rivalry and reminded the deputies that there were at least seventy million Germans spread across Mitteleuropa. Should Russia falter, then the Pan-Germans would inevitably look to Rheinland, the French Palatinate and Alsace. At that point France would stand without an ally in Europe. Therefore as much he hated war France must go to war. The Radicals and the Moderates agreed but inevitably Jean Jaurès and many Socialists did not. Despite Briand's huge majority in the Chambre he was only able to secure a vote for war with the help of the Radicals led by Georges Clemenceau and the Moderates led by Alexandre Ribot . Jaurès and the antiwar Socialists opposed with every fiber of their being participation in a war that did not directly challenge France [4].

Briand carried the day on 26 September, but at the cost of splitting the government and French socialism. A hundred and twenty Socialist deputies, more than a third of the Left in the Chambre preferred to go into opposition rather than agree to go to war. Briand would need the support of the Radical Socialists just to keep office and the the rest of the Radicals to achieve anything in office. In the country at large, though foreign journalists could detect little enthusiasm for war the general feeling seemed to be with Briand rather than Jaurès: France could not afford a Russian collapse. Surprisingly the greatest trepidation was in hawkish circles; the French Army had undergone a severe test during the past decade and both the Dreyfus Affair and the affaire des fiches had shaken the officer corps.

France was going to war because she had too... but was she even capable of fighting such a war?

War 1907.jpg

The political situation at the outbreak of war, September 1907.


[1] In the context 'France' means Metropolitan France only, the 'Hapsburgs' cover Austria, Hungary and Croatia and 'Britain' means the British Isles. All three are higher than in OTL from a combination of higher population growth and additional territory (Rheinland for France, Lombardy and the Veneto for Austria). In contrast the Russian population is a lot lower.

[2] Russia is behind the Austro-Hungarian-Croatians in military technology. Not hopelessly behind but enough to impact Mobilization.

[3] The war certainly caught me as a player off guard but given their past history I doubt anyone in Saint Petersburg or Vienna sought to apply the brakes as war neared.

[4] Since almost all the deputies in the Assemblée nationale are republican I thought I should change the way I label factions a little. The Socialists (Républicain démocratique in game terms) are in power. While they do not have a presence in government in game terms the SFIO exists and is effectively represented in the Chambre by Jaurès's oppostion socialists. The 'Radicals' and 'Socialist-Radicals' are both part of the in-game Républicain libérale faction. The Moderates (Républicain modéré) are the mainstream conservative republicans.
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For those of you who were fans of my previous AAR The Queen of Cities I'm aware the Photobucket debacle has left all my pictures unviewable. Don't worry I do have all of them saved somewhere so I will try and reconstruct that work via file uploading (as I do in this AAR) or an alternate image hosting site. :)

Mat Man: I agree he was deeply unfortunate with his timing. The choice in 1907 was to fight a war when France might not be ready, or to wait and fight it later against a potentially far stronger foe.

loup99: Thank you. I admit the Socialist triumph threw me, especially in it's scale. I had expected the liberals to return to office. Still I hope I have been fair in writing them in power.

stnylan: That might be slightly unfair. The war of 1907 caught everyone in France off balance.

Tankman987: An interesting, if terrifying idea. However my modfu is weak.

Though I'm preoccupied with the war now I'll try and take a look at Spain in a future update. :)

guillec87: As with Spain South America really deserves an update of it's own which i hope to get to soon.

Jape: Arguably relief. Everyone wants stability in Brazil, at least as much as possible. Remember either a hot or cold civil war has been going on there for two decades by this point (1907).

Andreios II: Currently the parliamentary Right in France is extraordinarily weak, the weakest it is has been all game except for the immediate aftermath of the 1875 revolution. I doubt it will stay so marginalised, though it is too early to predict how and in which direction it will grow.

Nikolai: That we might see! :eek:

volksmarschall: Thank you, I'll keep my eye out for it. AS I've said I know very little about that period.
My first post on this forum but I have been reading for months now. Did the rump NGF rename itself Germany in-game? If so, it is a lesser Germany indeed. I think the Americans may not join a offensive European war launched by its allies but I might be wrong. I believe in-game that if Austria-Hungary forms, they can not longer form Germany especially if Germany already formed. If the Austrian-Hungarian-Croatian Monarchy wins, you may wish to mod in or console in Greater Germany. If the Franco-Russian alliance wins, they may carve off Hungary or Croatia as independent states. The only certain things about this unwanted war is great bloodshed, men blinded by gas, and sobbing widows. I hope no one shoots Jean Jaurès this time again for opposing the war.
Good heavens, that Austrian monstrosity must absolutely be broken up! The peace of Europe demands War!

Um, wait...

No, seriously! Russia... What have you done, Russia!

When speaking of breakfast we say that the chicken has an interest but the pig has committment. The Russian pigs (sorry) are committed. The French chicken (sorry) is interested - but are you committed? This war is going to break somebody, and maybe more than one somebody, and once you buy the ticket you are going to have to ride the ride all the way to the end.

One tiny nit to pick. I do understand that you are using game events to make the game and I applaud you for it. I must point out that the 'state secret' of the French 75mm cannon was in the recoil/return mechanism and involved a fit so precise and exact it had to be hand-tooled like jewelry. Drawings of the mechanism were not even provided to allies in WW1; as I remember, the US Army finally reverse-engineered it and, after the war, developed a way to mass-produce it. It is unlikely that the recoil mechanism would have been sold abroad... it wasn't exactly secret, since the Germans and everyone else had similar components. The secret was in the machining of the extremely tight and accurate fit of the cylinder and piston.

However, one can argue that the mass sale of the 75mm cannon would provide funds for other needed army equipment, especially so if the 'secret' of its production had already been made public.

I'm really hoping that you and Russia can pull off the 'War to End All Austrias'. Too bad you can't convince the Germans to get a little of their own back; you could use the help, I think.
A war so major and decisive to deciding the possibility of Großdeutschland that not only have all minor German States have joined (sans the rump republic of Northern Germany), but Switzerland has actually violated their doctrine of neutrality to join. It also seems as though Russia's Slavic allies of Serbia and Bulgaria (which seems to have integrated the largely Bulgarian Kingdom of Macedonia) have joined to flank from the Balkans, even if they'll probably be easily crushed. It also seemed the web of entangling alliances has also brought the Swedes to your side against the Danes, which may also solve the question of Scandinavian unification. Whatever the outcome is, this is sure to be a bloody brutal war, quite possibly the one to end all conflicts of this nature.
Wars can be triggered by such small things ... and have the most terrible of consequences.

Given the late date I can't imagine that the death toll is going to be small.
so interesting... VIena and St Peterburg behind the first world war of that time line...
And so it begins. Once again, France finds itself dragged into war unwittingly and unwillingly, yet to stand down would cost them their credibility and a chance -- however slight -- to cull the ambitions of their great Continental rival.

Seeing the old 75 get a nod was a nice touch. It's certainly a classic in the annals of historical artillery -- I've never seen the numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the single most lethal weapon in all of human history, at least in terms of sheer quantity.
This war is already looking like a bloody and dirty affair even though it has barely started yet. I do expect the worse, with strikes by the Socialists who are radically opposed to the war and a need for a coalition government reaching out beyond the current majority around Briand in order to unite around the war effort. I suspect some moderates will in time be closer to Briand and Millerand than some of the government ministers.

How do you envision the Austrian and German socialists as well as the Second International in general reacting though? Or are they too marginal in other countries? Historically Jaurès in particular had a lot of contacts and plans on the eve of the First World War, although the SPD was famous for being more "bourgeois".

Concerning your writing, I think you indeed were fair in the portrayal, and your concern for being so has been visible throughout the AAR, so no need to worry when it comes to that.
For those of you who were fans of my previous AAR The Queen of Cities I'm aware the Photobucket debacle has left all my pictures unviewable. Don't worry I do have all of them saved somewhere so I will try and reconstruct that work via file uploading (as I do in this AAR) or an alternate image hosting site. :)
It's weird, I use Photobucket myself and have no problems whatsoever. I use it in my new AAR that I started last week.
Rhine front 1907.jpg

The Rhine Front & part of the French Army, 29 September 1907.

Part Sixty Seven - Battle for the Rhine Part One

The South German Federation had been a faithful satellite of Vienna for decades. In 1907 there had been no question that any war that included the Tripartite Monarchy would include them. Pre-war French military plans, correctly anticipating the South Germans would fight, called for an invasion of the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Bavarian Palatinate by the French Second, Third and Fourth Armies. French military thinking strongly favoured an aggressive approach across the River Rhine, hoping to push the Germans out of the war quickly so that French attention could be turned against the Hapsburg forces proper [1].

The Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, and the man who created this strategy was Marshal Achille Boué de Lapeyrère. Boué de Lapeyrère was a veteran of the Savoyard War, and the man who had defeated the North German Federation. In 1907 Boué de Lapeyrère was sixty six. A Breton, he had grown up in Finistère in a family better known for producing sailors than soldiers - his grandfather had commanded Océan at the Battle of the Coast of Brittany. Boué de Lapeyrère had joined the hussars in 1860, and therefore enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks. By the Revolution of 1875 (a deeply traumatic event for the royalist officer) he was a chef d'escadrons and an adjutant to the Duc de Montpensier. Major Boué de Lapeyrère had been so incensed by Marshal Napoléon Leboeuf's negotiations with the republican government that only a personal appeal by the Duc, himself a skilled duelist, dissuaded Boué de Lapeyrère from challenging France's senior soldier to a duel. Boué de Lapeyrère eventually recognised the pragmatism of the Duc though he never forgot or forgave Leboeuf and much of his later relationship with Georges Boulanger may have been thanks to their mutual distaste for the old marshal.

Despite his strong personal royalist and later Boulangist convictions Boué de Lapeyrère did not subsequently engage in politics. For all his talent and later fame he was personally unambitious and content to stay in the military. Having accepted, however reluctantly, the Second Republic he was prepared to dutifully serve it. By 1907 he had spent more than four decades in the French Army and few knew it better. He combined a natural genius for military administration with a vicious streak in open warfare that made him remarkably popular in the Army. Unfortunately, for all Boué de Lapeyrère's obvious ability and experience his relations with the Government elected in 1904 were abysmal. The Marshal had been a friend of General Boulanger and though Boué de Lapeyrère's public stance continued to be resolutely apolitical, in private it was well known he was an Anti-Dreyfusard. After Dreyfus had come the
Affaire des Fiches that had almost destroyed the officer corps and humiliated and weakened the reputation of the Army abroad. Boué de Lapeyrère, who had to pick up the pieces, noted darkly in a letter to his wife that: "I fear the current Government is more dangerous to France than Britain and Austria combined."


Marshal Achille Boué de Lapeyrère, Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, 1907 to 1908.

It might be wondered why the Government tolerated a commander who viewed them with scarcely hidden distaste in public and open rudeness in private. The truth was that the Jean Jaurès and Aristide Briand ministries had mediocre relations with almost all senior French officers. Even the growing republican presence in the upper ranks tended to lean Moderate or Radical. The hostility and incomprehension of the officers was returned in full measure by the Socialist politicians, many of them committed pacifists. Unhappy as Boué de Lapeyrère was he at least kept his criticisms out of the newspapers. More importantly Marshal Boué de Lapeyrère was one of the most respected soldiers in Europe and a public hero. Stripping him of his post for partisan political reasons would have shaken the French military to its roots.

For his part Boué de Lapeyrère stubbornly stuck around despite personally declining health and the emotional toil his post was taking on him. The aging marshal was convinced if he retired the politicians would break the Army entirely.

During General Boulanger's long reign as Minister of War the arthritic organisation of the French Army had been partially modernised. Unfortunately by 1907, and after the disastorous tenure of General Louis André, French mobilisation was once again lagging behind her neighbours [2]. It took far too long for the reservists to be properly called up and assigned to their units meaning that for the first four months or so of the war all the fighting wold be handled by the regular army, a relatively small force given the size of France. The decision of Switzerland to abandon neutrality under intense Hapsburg political pressure forced Boué de Lapeyrère to redirect some of his already thinly stretched forces to the Swiss border. Combined with the efficient organisation of the South German Army this meant that the French did not enjoy the sort of crushing superiority in men along the Rhine that population figures would suggest. That would change later on, but for the last few months of 1907 and into 1908 Boué de Lapeyrère would enjoy only a slim lead in the numbers game.

Freiburg Strasbourg.jpg

The First Battle of Freiburg, 10-16 October 1907 & the First Battle of Strasbourg, 11-19 October.

In the first offensive of the war the French Fourth Army under General August Canrobert crossed the Rhine into Baden. The French, advancing through the hilly Kaiserstuhl region, reached the city of Freiburg on the evening of 10 October, surprising the South German III. Armeekorps under Günther Seitz. General Seitz aware that Canrobert had negligible artillery had assumed himself safe from attack before the beginning of November. Canrobert may have lacked heavy guns but he had a strong advantage in cavalry and in an ingenious flanking assault bypassed and surrounded Seitz before the German commander quite realised what was happening. It was a risky gamble leaning so heavily on horse troopers, and casualties rates where appalling, especially of animals but the move worked. Cut off and demoralised, Seitz and his entire corps surrendered on 16 October.

Meanwhile, the South Germans had launched their own October offensive, aimed at capturing Strasbourg. This city was defended by the French Third Army under General Thierry Leboeuf and after a bitter struggle and fearful cost of French lives the enemy were pushed back. This time there were scant numbers of prisoners taken and the South Germans retreated in good order, a disappointment for all that it was a victory. Once again the fabled French artillery was in little evidence, a factor that initially baffled the South Germans.

In fact the artillery corps were being co-opted for a far more massive offensive that the Fourth Army's invasion of Baden or the Second Army's thus far unopposed offensive against the Barvaraian Palatinate. Over the objections of Boué de Lapeyrère, who favoured a sustained attacked along the Rhine Front to grind down the South German Army Théophile Delcassé, the new Minister of War was convinced that France needed to deliver a "massive, decisive blow" that would knock the South German Federation out of the war in one swoop.

M. Delcassé was a very new Minister of War, having taken the post only at the very end of September. A fiercely intelligent man and capable politician he shone in colonial affairs and foreign policy. Unfortunately for Delcassé, Briand himself handled foreign affairs in his government. Nevertheless Delcassé as one of the leading Radicals had to be given a major ministry in Briand's pro-war coalition. It was not a happy combination. Delcassé had little knowledge of military matters and tended to view battles in the context of the wider diplomatic picture. In some respects this was an asset, but less so when he was pushing for a major offensive to relieve pressure on the Russians and the Italians. Boué de Lapeyrère was not easily given to pessimism, but the unexpectedly impressive South German performance at Strasbourg made him cautious. It was over his express objections that Delcassé's pet offensive was launched in the last week of November.

Battle of Karlsruhe.jpg

The Battle of Karlsruhe, 23 November - 6 December 1907.
The Battle of Karlsruhe, the worst defeat the French Army had suffered in a century was a feast of failures for historians to pour over. Aside from the overall military problems already cited the French suffered from confusion over command with General Vaillant, formely head of the First Army pushed into a leadership by Delcassé and Briand despite Boué de Lapeyrère sulfurous reaction. The politicians had assumed that the commander-in-chief's loathing of Vaillant was due to the man's politics - Vaillant was a republican and a Freemason and had backed the government during the Affaire des Fiches. This was unfair. The man Boué de Lapeyrère wanted was General Canrobert, who was also a republican and a Freemason but was a superb officer. Vaillant was merely an amiable mediocrity.

Unfortunately for the French, General Beck-Rzikowsky was to prove a master at defensive warfare. The city of Karlsruhe had been strongly fortified over the decades in recognition of her strategically vital location. French soldiers found themselves facing well constructed trenches and machine gun points, all in poor weather that dogged the attackers still further. After the initial attack was bloodily repulsed Vaillant had no better ideas than to try again, using his mass artillery to try to bludgeon his way in. However the vast majority of Vaillant's guns were field weaponry rather than siege guns, and the damage to the German positions fell far short of French hopes.

Despite Vaillant's poor showing and the other problems much still might have been achieved had it not been for a new and chilling weapon: poison gas. The South Germans had used small quantities of chlorine gas before at Strasbourg, but Karlsruhe saw the first truly large scale use of this weapon, delivered via artillery. As a killing agent chlorine gas was relatively ineffective - of the more than thirty thousand casualties the French forces suffered directly from poison gas actual deaths numbered far less than two thousand. Yet the psychological impact was shattering; especially as the French Army took a long time to develop effective countermeasures [3].

A strong South German counterattack on 3 December broke through the exhausted French lines, pushing Vaillant back across the Rhine and trapping a huge French contingent on the wrong side of the river. Beck-Rzikowsky, realising the sheer disarray afflicting the enemy kept the momentum up and on 6 December fifty thousand encircled French surrendered. Effectively speaking the great French force on the Rhine - including the bulk of the Second, Third and Fourth Armies, had ceased to exist [4]. Three days later Beck-Rzikowsky ejected the threadbare French forces from Freiburg.

The crisis created by the Battle of Karlsruhe left the French on the defensive for the next three months, probably doomed Italy (obviously no more troops could be spared for that front now) and cost both Delcassé and Vaillant their posts. Replacing the resigned Minister of War was another Radical politician, Georges Clemenceau. The anti-war movement was immensely strengthened by the defeat and over a dozen Socialist deputies defected from the Government to join Jean Jaurès and the opposition. For Boué de Lapeyrère, who had shepherded the French Army through the lean and bitter years it felt like his life's work had been in vain. Karlsruhe did nothing but harm to his increasingly fragile health and within two months he would be dead.

His successor as commander-in-chief would be August Canrobert, who would win the first battle of 1908 - and save France.


[1] Thought the Swiss had been strongarmed into the war on the Hapsburg side their actual contribution seems to have been limited and directed against Italy. Rather than a military threat in and of themselves they were mostly a potential invasion corridor, forcing me to hold additional forces in reserve.

[2] This is to reflect the in-game impact of having a Pacifist ruling party.

[3] In fact, despite hurriedly researching the right Tech I don't manage to finally get Gas Defense Capability until 1910! It was a shock, especially as I am generally in the top tier tech wise.

[4] Most the reasons for the defeat you can probably tell from the narrative, but in-game bad luck played a part. I think poor Vaillant had a string of awful rolls.
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I do not focus on every battle, just the most significant. I've engaged in a couple of minor inconclusive battles aside from the ones mentioned, suffering both minor losses and gaining minor victories.


Bored Student1414: Welcome to the forum and I hope you enjoy yourself! :) As for your post as I said before I am not much of a modder but I will consider the situation as it develops.

Director: That's a fair point about the 75mm cannon. I suppose I wanted to reflect how in game terms France is by far the largest exporter of artillery, undoubtedly to the discomfort of the Pacifist government! I think we can assume that the French manufacturers keep a few secrets to themselves!

Mat Man: Technically North Germany is still a monarchy (HM Government) but otherwise spot on. As I've said this isn't a Great War but is very close.

stnylan: Indeed. I suppose the only thing is that any aircraft involved will be extremely primitive, so much so they don't factor in in game terms (aeroplane units aren't available until 1914 .) So no equivalent of the Gotha bombers striking London.

guillec87: Not quite. A Great War (with at least two Great Powers on each side) has yet to happen.

Specialist290: It's not something I wanted to happen, but in many ways it reflects the Kobayashi Maru situation France is stuck in. Russia is simply too weak and backwards to defeat the Hapsburgs on her own.

loup99: I think the German and Austrian socialist might be quite weak - their governments are dominated by liberals and conservatives. Still, it is a good point and one I'll try and address as the war continues.

Nikolai: Strange. It seems to come and go for me.
What a ruinous defeat! Coupled with the defeat in Italy, France is on the backfoot. Looks like the Americans did not join the war. Any French soldier who experienced the battle of Karlsruhe will not tell his children the old lie of Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Delcassé's pet offensive running straight into poison gas has no doubt greatly prolonged the war. I look forward to how Canrobert becomes the hero of the hour. Victory, defeat or white peace, the cost will be very high. How is Russia doing? I fear communist or fascist revolution for the defeated like the one in Italy. I also fear this war is only a preview for a true great war.
If the defeat at sea against Japan was the wake-up call for the navy, the Battle of Karlsruhe seems to be of a similar amplitude for the army, if not more significant due to the share scale of defeat and the threat it could pose with a collapse of the front and foreign invasion of metropolitan France. The general self-confidence of the military as an institution, already shaken with the two affairs, seems to be at an all-time low, which in turn creates a butterfly effect upon the morale.

The Clemenceau-Canrobert duo seems to have something going for them though, and Père la Victoire is always there to save France in the shadow of defeat (or so did at least the French opinion believe for a while). With Clemenceau joining in on the government benches, I think Briand has a charismatic answer to the reinforced Pacific Socialists, who themselves will be distanced further from the war-time coalition with the additional defections.
that is a very cruel defeat! glad that France will be saved!