Wednesday, 12 November 2014

History again and Mr Farage

I have long been fascinated by one focus of Europe's history - the collapse of Germany in 1918, the Paris conference and the resultant short lived Weimar Republic. Colonel House's collected letters reveal the progressive breakdown between him and his most trusting master, President Wilson; House was close to the murderous taste for revenge of the French after the UK and US had won the war for them. Who knows whether Hitler would have arisen had not Wilson's intentions been perverted and Germany's humiliation been so complete?; as a footnote, the US almost repeated this vicious humiliation in 1945 until good judgement ditched the evil of the Morgenthau Plan for the beneficent Marshall Plan. 

The Novels of Alfred Döblin - particularly November 1918 and Tales of a Long Night rather than Berlin Alexanderplatz - give a truly authentic insight into the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of Germans during those times, and Youtube has (in two parts) the 3-hour Die Legende vom Dolchstoß und der Vertrag von Versailles by Bernd Fischerauer which I cannot commend too highly.

The counterpart argument for the causes that fuelled Nazism to that of Versailles being too vindictive is that of Germany's military defeat being unfulfilled. Nigel Farage put the case during the annual Tom Olsen lecture at St Bride's, reported by the Guardian. 

I firmly believe that there's no right answer to this and no one viewpoint has the truth of it - but that all informed debate on history is good, and it's right that fixed opinions on all sides are ever open to challenge. And Good on Mr Farage for contributing to the debate.  


Rush-is-Right said...

The only criticism of Mr Farage's statement is that, with the advantage of hindsight, it all seems a bit obvious. Of course it would have been better to have finished the job against the Germans in 1918, and justice would have been served had we done so. We should have taken Berlin and seen to it that the Keiser was hanged.

What made it impossible of course was that foolish President Wilson wanted the war finished, and a war-weary public at home (more understandably) felt the same.

G. Tingey said...

I wonder.
Was "The Kaiser" really to blame?
After all, he apparently tried to turn the offensive in the West around, at the last moment & "only" invade Russia. But was stopped by von Moltke the younger, who claimed that the plans could not be stopped, once started - a deliberate lie.
If anyone should have been strung up, it should have been von M.

If that had happened, Britain would NOT have joined in [ No invasion of Belgium ]
As always, the late, great Barbara Tuchman is an invaluable guide....

mikebravo said...

The grauns comments sections seem to be getting worse (impossible I know!).
They don't seem to be able to read past the fact that Farage said something before piling on the invective.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

The trouble with Farage's analysis is that if we had carried on after the 100 days, as our supply lines lengthened and theirs shortened, resistance would have stiffened and it is by no means certain it would not have ended in stalemate. We were exhausted too. I also wonder: is he aware that we did proceed into Germany and occupy large chunks of it? My grandfather served in the original BAOR occupying Cologne in 1919. We stayed there until 1929.

Raedwald said...

Good points - crossing the Rhine would have triggered a German patriotic surge, plus I wonder if the Kermits would have stayed the course once French land was recovered - they were on the edge of outright mutiny from 1917 on.

Rush-is-Right said...

G Tingey.... Hello again. A couple of things. One, I wasn't aware that the Kaiser had tried to call back the German offensive in the West. I never heard that before. But in any event von Moltke was surely right, once the troops are sent off its blooming hard to call them back again. And the Schlieffen Plan on which the German Staff had been working for 10 years called for France to be neutralised (and quickly) before any attack on Russia could be contemplated. And as France and Russia were mutually interlocked in a defence Treaty any attack on Russia would inevitably have brought the French in. So from the German point of view, the assault on France was absolutely necessary.

To SW's point about lengthening supply lines and stiffening German resolve, well there is something in that but you have to remember that the reason Germany was so utterly defeated was that the naval blockade had reduced their supply situation to a critical level. It doesn't matter how short your supply lines are if there is nothing in the warehouse. By 1918 the German citizenry were eating bread (if they could find it) made from potato flour and sawdust. Ammunition was also critical.

What WOULD have been critical might have been money. The only reason the UK had been able to carry on fighting was the availability of US credit. If Wilson had turned that off, we would have had to stop, simple as that.

Cascadian said...

Sebastian Weetabix.........we agree.

The 100 day advance relied on massive supplies of ammunition for counter-battery, wire and defensive position destruction and creeping barrage implementation. Suppliers could not keep up with demand.

But my comments would not be complete without praise for the Australian corps who developed the winning tactics. Initial large breakthroughs by the Australians at Quentin canal followed by the Canadians at Cambrai ably assisted by their junior partner sapped the Germans will, loses of artillery by Germans during the lightening advances no doubt contributed to their call for an armistice. It was good to see that Raedwald gave the US a deserved mention.

So Farage's comments probably lack a bit of realistic assessment.

Edward Spalton said...

Dr Richard North of is a notable critic of Nigel,Farage. Yet he freely admits that Farage has a considerable depth of knowledge in this field. So his opinion is grounded In a considerable depth of knowledge concerning the tactical,and strategic situation of the time.

My father was seven in 1914 and a voracious early reader. Watching a TV programme about the end of the war, he was astonished at the film footage of German regiments returning home in good order to cheering crowds in 1918/19.

So there was no atmosphere of defeat and unconditional surrender and a public mood ready for an eventual,return match.

Raedwald said...

Cascadian - I should of course have said "after the Empire and the US had won the war for them [the French]" but of course 'Empire' is no more accurate than 'UK' when writing of Australia, South Africa etc. and 'Commonwealth' is just tooo 1960s to describe the 1914 alliance of nations that shared a Head of State.

As the anniversary of Gallipoli
approaches I look forward to some lively debate ...

And while I'm certainly not Anti-American, being a huge admirer of US Localism, I reserve the right to critique US big business and in particular the evils of Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex - as much a danger now as when he coined the phrase in 1961.

Raedwald said...

Edward - The Germans would have rejected the terms of Versailles if their army were able to continue the war; it was explicit advice from Hindenburg to Ebert that the army could not / would not fight that caused them to sign. Their mistake was in believing that the allies were in a different position; I'm convinced that the French army would have mutinied if ordered to restart the war.

While the German army was intact enough to defeat the November revolution, it's possible that the widespread publicity given to regiments marching home in good order with standards aloft was as much a bluff aimed at the allies on the war-readiness of the army as the cock-crowing of the ravaged Kermits.

Bill Quango MP said...

I'm fairly certain that Farage is pointing out the more modern historical take on WW1 and the 1918 offensives.

They postulate that the war ended not so much because Germany lost but because the allies won.
The argument goes, and with much justification, that rather than the British Empire and it's disintegrating French ally just managing to avoid falling to the canvas before the German Hungarian forces did; that it was the actually the repeated pummelling of coordinated and successful assaults that forced the Hun to give up.

The allied armies of 1918 were not the citizen armies of 1916 or the poorly coordinated armies of 1917.
They were by 1918 a well equipped, well led , well trained, well supplied and well organised combined arms fighting force with overwhelming material superiority.

Strategic bombing, tactical airforces, tank battalions, close artillery support, air support, mobile communications, semi-mobile artillery, reserves in depth, control of the seas, break through and exploitation doctrines ...

The allies and specifically the British Army were not fighting for a draw as the French had been forced to do in 16 + 17. They were fighting for and perfectly capable of the win.

So that might be what Farage means. It wasn't so much prolonging the struggle and taking loads of casualties as just finishing the great 1918 offensives.

Edward Spalton said...

Not at all historically valuable but at intervals I used to meet an old boy who had taken part in the advances of 1918 as a cavalryman.

It was obvious that the experience of getting beyond the front to the green fields had stirred him greatly . He said how much the horses improved with a dose of " Johnny Green" (fresh grazing) and I got the impression that everybody had their tails up! A high offensive spirit prevailed although ( he said) there were heavy casualties at times. A pint or two of beer added lustre to the recollection.

Cascadian said...

Raedwald, thank you for being so indulgent of my viewpoint and for being a good host.

The terminologies or abbreviations involved are problematic without getting into a long and distracting list as I did on a previous post. I rely on your good judgement as to what is appropriate, and hope you may accept a gentle reminder by others where it is felt necessary.

It is not a small thing that men who are willing to fight and die wish to do so as a recognizable unit with their own uniforms under their own flag. I therefore believe that where possible those achievements and sacrifices are recorded accurately at least to the correct nation.

I too look forward to a lively debate on Gallipolli, though I think you may have guessed my nationality incorrectly.

Please do not think I cannot tolerate any criticism of the USA or any country for that matter. Well deserved criticism is worthy of debate but as you may have noticed I dislike the prevalent tone in the UK that US involvement in the two World Wars was minimal, that Australian, New Zealand and Canadian (and all others) efforts had minimal or no affect on the outcome.

As to criticism of the military-industrial complex, I can understand it and some may be deserved. However in these days of ever complex weaponry and long lead times of manufacture I would prefer that our militaries over-do their preparation rather than under-do their preparation as seems the UK default position. It seems to me that Reagan found a way to utilize the military-industrial output to destroy the USSR and break down the Berlin wall, surely a worthwhile effort and at minimal cost to Europe.

James Higham said...

Can you imagine Beaker doing that?